A lawsuit filed by two of Ald. Joe Moreno’s challengers in the Circuit Court of Cook County may force a runoff in the 1st Ward.
The lawsuit, filed by Anne Shaw and Ronda Locke’s attorney Andrew Finko on March 3, formally contests the results of the election. The complaint alleges mistakes and fraud in the casting and counting of ballots and actions taken by Moreno’s camp on Election Day.
A motion was filed to accelerate the lawsuit to coincide with the April 7 runoff election. If Shaw and Locke are successful in getting 90-some votes thrown out, Shaw will appear alongside Moreno on 1st Ward ballots April 7.
“Election results aren’t often this close,” says Shaw. “I think we should have been in a runoff—it’s what people wanted.”
Legal Action Pending Final Vote Count
Election materials, such as absentee ballots and applications, will become available to the challengers sometime this week. Teams of volunteers for Shaw and Locke will examine the materials for mismatching signatures and other signs of possible fraud.
Although the final vote count was not certified until March 12, candidates only have five days after the Feb. 24 election to file a complaint with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. As a result, the allegations in the lawsuit are based on a small sample of information that Shaw and Locke believe represent a larger pattern of fraud.
Allegations Of Absentee Ballot Fraud, Electioneering
The bulk of the allegations involve absentee ballot fraud. For example, Shaw and Locke say that absentee ballots were cast for individuals who did not apply for an absentee ballot, fill out an absentee ballot or vote in the election at all.
“Most of this happened with senior citizens,” Shaw says.
The lawsuit specifically refers to voters at the Lathrop Elderly Apartments (2717 N. Leavitt St.) that were “improperly influenced in casting their ballots or had ballots signed and cast for them without their knowledge.”
Members of Shaw and Locke’s campaigns collected signed affidavits from individuals at the Lathrop Elderly Apartments that they did not request and/or cast an absentee ballot despite being listed as doing so by the Board of Elections. Other individuals signed affidavits saying that they were assisted in filling out their ballots—Shaw alleges that at least one of the voters claims to have been assisted by members of Moreno’s camp.
The 28th precinct, which contains the Lathrop Elderly Apartments, voted 84 percent for Moreno. The 1st Ward as a whole voted 51.08 percent for him.
Shaw says that they now have about 30 signed affidavits alleging similar activity. Volunteers for Shaw and Locke are continuing to investigate and collect affidavits.
“There’s fraud,” Shaw says. “If you look it up, there are recipes online on how to commit fraud by absentee ballot.”
The lawsuit also alleges votes counted by individuals who reside outside of the 1st Ward or who registered at improper addresses within the 1st Ward, such as empty lots.
Actions taken by Moreno and members of his campaign are also under fire by Shaw and Locke. Shaw says that one of her poll watchers, Caroline Zagraniczny, saw Moreno go into a voting booth at Talcott School in the 33rd precinct and assist an individual who was voting. When the election judge questioned Moreno, Zagraniczny alleges that Moreno said he was helping to translate.
A poll watcher for Locke says that they saw Iris Millan, former Director of Community Affairs for Moreno, helping break down election equipment at St. Mark Parish in the 18th precinct. Both of these actions would be violations of state law. Locke says she and Shaw have filed a complaint with the Board of Election Commissioners for the city over Moreno’s alleged action.
Complaints Filed With Legislative Inspector General, State’s Attorney
Shaw and Locke have also filed complaints with the Office of the Legislative Inspector General (OLIG) and the State’s Attorney’s office related to the alleged election fraud. An active criminal investigation is underway resulting from activities surrounding the election.
Locke has filed multiple complaints with the OLIG regarding Moreno throughout the election cycle.
A complaint filed in November alleged improper electioneering and harassment on Election Day for statewide races, as well as a text message sent to Locke by Moreno in October.
A later complaint says that Moreno violated ethics ordinance 2-156-445 by accepting more than the allowed $1,500 in a calendar year from a developer with standing business in the ward. Donations from developer Fifield Construction and Development include $2,500 given in October and another $1,000 donation in June, according to materials submitted by Locke.
“This alderman is more responsive to developers than the community,” Locke says. Moreno did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
The OLIG cannot reveal the identities of the parties involved in a complaint or publicize the status or findings of an investigation per municipal code 2-55. Locke says that none of the complaints to the OLIG have yet been resolved.
According to Kelly Tarrant, Chief Investigator for the OLIG, the office has faced a high volume of complaints resulting from the aldermanic elections.
“This is the first round of aldermanic elections that this office has experienced. …All of this stuff is very new to this office,” says Tarrant.
For Shaw and Locke, the outcome of the lawsuit is only a part of what is at stake for Chicago politics.
“We need to talk about what will happen in future elections,” Locke says.
Shaw says that the purpose of a runoff is to test whether people still want to keep the incumbent, and that this alleged fraudulent activity “robs people of the chance to vote for who they want.”
“People joke about [Chicago politics],” Shaw says, “but when you’re confronted with the evidence, it’s very troubling. …People should be outraged.”
Challengers outside of the 1st Ward have also filed election fraud complaints. Byron Sigcho is contesting Ald. Danny Solis’s win in the 25th Ward, and Tim Meegan is contesting Ald. Deb Mell’s win in the 33rd Ward.
Locke points to these lawsuits as an example of a growing group of progressive candidates who hope to disrupt “machine” politics in City Council.
“We’ve seen all the exact same things,” Locke says. “I’m tired of people saying, ‘That’s how Chicago politics are.’ Enough is enough.”