Proposals to prevent another drawn-out petition challenge like the one that plagued the primary election for assessor this year are expected to be released this week, Cook County Clerk David Orr said Tuesday.
“We are going to be making an announcement about that in the very near future,” Orr said. “Everything of course has to be decided by the legislature. Certain things happen not because of the process but because of the individuals involved.”
Candidates Andrea Raila and Fritz Kaegi were locked in a petition battle until the very last days before the March 20 primary election, which Raila said hobbled her candidacy and would discourage female and non-wealthy candidates from running for office. Kaegi brought a unique challenge against Raila’s petitions, alleging a pattern of fraud that led to a weeks-long fight and an appellate judge ultimately ruling Raila should be on the ballot.
Chicago election authorities agreed change is needed.
“We’ve publicly called for a shorter time-frame for early voting and an earlier filing period,” Chicago Board of Elections spokesperson Jim Allen said in an email, echoing his earlier comments that 40 days of early voting was a “Biblical” number. “So have election jurisdictions elsewhere in the state, particularly the reduction in Early Voting back to the original 15 or 22 days before Election Day.”
Chicago delayed its early voting because of unresolved petition challenges.
The Chicago Board of Elections estimated it spent at least $225,000 on additional printing costs due to election authorities removing, then restoring Raila as a valid candidate, Allen said.
Editorial boards of both the Tribune and Sun-Times have called for early voting changes, not only inspired by the Raila/Kaegi fight, but Attorney General Candidate Scott Drury’s petition challenge. While early voting was scheduled to start Feb. 8, some election authorities were unsure whether to begin early voting, or whether to include or exclude Drury from ballots.
While Drury won his appeal on Feb. 16, Raila’s appeal allowing her back on the ballot wasn’t granted until six days before primary election day, and led to confusion at several polling places.
“Winnebago County began early voting on schedule; its county seat, Rockford, did not,” the Tribune’s Editorial Board wrote. “In St. Clair County, voters were told they could cast paper ‘proof’ ballots while appeals were pending, but they’d have to come back and vote again if the certified ballot turned out different. Other jurisdictions offered no do-overs, warning voters that if their candidate was eventually bounced, the vote wouldn’t count.”