Ald. John Pope (10) and challenger Susan Sadlowski Garza both filed petitions for an election contest in Cook County Circuit Court Monday. A special Illinois election statue requires Chicago aldermanic candidates to file for a recount only five court days after the election–which was yesterday–even before the election results are certified.
Normally, it is the losing candidate who files the petition for an election contest, which can cost up to $100,000 in legal fees and evidence gathering. Rarely is there an instance where both candidates file for an election contest.
After Sadlowski Garza saw her lead over Ald. Pope drop from 89 votes on Wednesday to 33 votes on Saturday, her campaign told Aldertrack they decided not to take any chances. Her legal team includes Cook County Comm. Larry Suffredin, Northfield Township Dem. Comm. Michael Kreloff and Ed Mullen.
“Our petition was centered about the potential for corruption with the absentee ballots. The [ballots] that have been counted were split 2-1 in Pope’s favor. We expected that,” Carl Camacho, campaign manager for Sadlowski Garza, told Aldertrack yesterday. “[Ald. Pope] ran a really aggressive absentee ballot campaign and now he is waiting for them to roll in.”
Any absentee ballot postmarked before April 6 can count toward the totals if it is properly filled out and received by April 21, and Ald. Pope has so far, received approximately 68% of the156 absentee ballots counted toward the 10th Ward race.
But according to Sadlowski Garza’s petition, several of these absentee ballots should be ruled invalid because they were not properly authenticated. The petition also alleges widespread corruption and voter intimidation by the Pope campaign. [PDF]
Ald. Pope, in turn, has requested that the Board of Elections take another look at discarded absentee ballots, among other issues. According to Jake Breymaier, Ald. Pope’s campaign manager, most absentees are filled out by senior citizens and not counting or reconsidering them is a form of disenfranchisement.
“Our goal is to make sure that every legal vote can count,” Breymaier said, adding that most of Sadlowski Garza’s claims are hearsay and will not stand up in court.
Aldertrack requested a copy of the petition filed by Ald. Pope’s attorney, Michael Kasper, but it was not received by publication.
When a candidate files a petition for an Election Contest they are asking a judge to determine the results of the election. If the court rules in the plaintiff’s favor, it can either declare that candidate the winner or void the election and order that a new election take place, if it finds sufficient evidence that mistakes or irregularities make it impossible to determine the winner. The process can take between a few weeks to several years, depending on the grievances listed in the petitions.
None of the candidates in the two other hotly contested aldermanic races, in the 31st and 43rd Wards, filed a petition yesterday. Ald. Ray Suarez (31), Milagros “Milly” Santiago (31), Ald. Michele Smith (43) and Caroline Vickrey (43) have decided not to take legal action and will instead wait for the Board of Elections to certify the election results on April 23rd.