Election complaints detail problems in 49th Ward

During the 49th Ward aldermanic run-off in April officials received complaints ranging from electioneering and insufficient staffing by election workers to disputes over provisional ballots, according to documents obtained by the Daily News.

The complaints are at the center of a lawsuit filed by challenger Don Gordon alleging election fraud and constitutional violations during the voting.

Among the complaints received by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and provided to the Daily News under the state Freedom of Information Act were these:

  • Poll watcher Jim Barnes complained about people wearing campaign buttons within the campaign free zone.
  • Sherine Madigan complained that the 9th precinct didn't have enough judges when it opened.
  • An anonymous complaintant reported that election officials in the 24th Precinct allowed someone who didn't live there to vote. The person was also allowed to vote in another precinct, the complaint said.

"We want to make sure that we have a clean election," said Gordon.

Though Gordon's campaign has been awaiting a review of the complaints, few appear to bolster the fraud allegations made in his lawsuit.

A small number, though, deal with allegations that election workers allowed questionable voters to cast regular ballots, rather than provisional ones.

A provisional ballot is used if there is doubt to whether a voter can legally vote in that election and a review of their ballot is needed.

Gordon lost the election by a margin of 251 votes out of nearly 8,000 cast.

Jim Allen, Communication Director for the Board of Elections, said the complaints don't necessarily prove failures on the part of the judges.

"There is a fine line that judges have to strike," Allen said, between ensuring a fair election and disallowing complaints that fail the common-sense test.

Matt Piers, an attorney representing Moore, said the runoff was the most closely supervised election he's seen in a long time,  and that the number of complaints was relatively small.

But Gordon said the complaints show officials ignored valid election challenges.

According to Gordon, one poll worker heard a judge saying that provisional voting was not being allowed in this election.

"We should be on the same page, that we have a fair election," Gordon said.

Jennifer Desroberts, an election judge in the 10th precinct, also saw problems.

"I felt that no one was really following the guidelines on how we should run the place," she said.