Public housing residents still awaiting final election results

It has been nearly three weeks since public housing residents cast a vote for their community leaders, but many of the results are still up in the air.

At Lathrop Homes, a North Side public housing development, community members are divided over the election results for their local governing council.

One group at the North Side public housing development supports the results of the election, saying challenger Robert Davidson fairly won the office of president.

Another group says the election wasn't run properly. They say Lathrop's many Spanish-speaking residents were confused by the voting process, which was done only in English.

Maria Santiago says she was frustrated by the process. She speaks some English, but says there wasn't anyone at the polling booth who spoke Spanish.

"A lot of people, they don't know writing. They don't know reading," says Santiago. "I know a lot of old ladies who don't speak any English. They didn't know what to do."

Santiago says she voted for Juanita Stevenson, the incumbent candidate who lost the election. She feels the election should be redone in a way that everyone can participate.

"To me, to be fair is to do it again," says Santiago. "If he won, fine. If she won, fine. I don't care who wins, but do it right."

But other residents who voted for Davidson say they'll be angry if the elections are done over.

"The man won fair and square to me," says Earline Russell, who's lived in Lathrop Homes for nine years.

Laura Rosareo agreed that the election was fair. She got help from her nephew, Lathrop resident Juan Melendez, at the ballot box because the ballots were in English. Both Melendez and Rosareo say there should have been Spanish ballots, but they don't want to see another election.

"Why would we do it over again? It was a fair vote," says Melendez.

Sandra Bivens, president of Alexis Bivens Ltd., the company contracted to run the elections, says while the company didn't have ballots in Spanish or Spanish-speaking employees on site at Lathrop, they did have Spanish-speaking staff ready to come to any site, if they were called out.

"We did not receive any calls from anywhere that needed Spanish interpretation on election day," says Bivens.

Stevenson says she hopes the election can be run again, as she feels many voters may not have understood the ballots well enough to cast an accurate vote.

"The whole process of the election was very confusing," says Stevenson. "A lot of the residents can't read very well. The ballots were confusing."

But Davidson says he doesn't want the election run again, not because he's afraid he'll lose, but because he says running the election again interferes with democracy.

"To ask people to come out and do it again, are we saying to the people, 'We don't like your answer,'" says Davidson. "I respect the voice of the people, first and foremost."

Because of a technicality in how the ballots were printed, Stevenson's name appeared on the ballot several times. Stevenson says she was told by staff at Alexis Bivens that she had to file her nomination petition that way. She fears some residents may have checked her name just once, not realizing that they had not voted for her as president.

Stevenson has filed a formal challenge with Alexis Bivens, Ltd. She says she had a hearing on April 10 and has another on April 21.

Sandra Bivens says the company has received about eight challenge requests and is currently working on settling all of them. She says the results of the challenge process should be out by the end of the week, or at the latest, Monday, April 27.

Staff Writer Megan Cottrell covers public housing for the Daily News. She can be reached at 773-362-5002, ext. 12, or megan [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.