10th Ward residents are still waiting for results

Representatives from the both the Garza and Pope campaigns and media watch as ballots are counted following the April 7 election. Lizz Giordano/Medill

By Lizz Giordano

One of the closest elections runoffs in recent Chicago history might not be decided even after all the ballots are tallied Tuesday.

A fiercely fought campaign for 10th Ward alderman has ended up in court after both candidates filed for a recount with the Cook County Circuit Court. As of Monday, challenger and political newcomer Susan Sadlowski Garza leads incumbent Alderman John A. Pope by 33 votes, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. The final absentee and provisional ballots still need to be rolled into the totals for the Tuesday deadline.

Tuesday is the last day for the Chicago Board of Elections to process the remaining absentee and provisional ballots.

Garza’s suit seeks a recount of all the ballots and also alleges voter intimation by Pope and his campaign. These allegations include verbal abuse toward voters and workers from the opposition campaign. They also allege that “Pope was personally taking ballots to voters in cars for curbside voting,” according to a complaint filed by Garza and her lawyers.

Ed Mullen, a lawyer for the Garza campaign, said that they have about a dozen affidavits signed by witnesses regarding the allegation of voter intimidation by Pope and his campaign.

Pope’s suit seeks a full and complete recount of all ballots cast and the inclusion of ballots his campaign said were wrongly excluded by the Board of Elections.

“There were several categories of mistakes, errors, inaccuracies, frauds and illegal acts committed during the election, which numerous invalid ballots were wrongly counted,” according to the complaint filed by Pope and his lawyers

“We need to ensure every legal and valid vote is counted,” said Pope campaign representative Jake Breymaier. “We owe that to the voters.”

Requests for an election recount must be made within five days after the election – so both campaigns filed suit preemptively, leaving them the option to withdraw at any time.

A hearing is scheduled for May 12 for these complaints to be heard in front of a judge.

A separate incident had Board of Election Judges change procedure Thursday.  Judges indicated that campaign workers were recording names and votes from absentee ballots as they were being opened and processed. Campaign workers could tell who voted for or against their candidates.

“It was an issue that had never surfaced before,” Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen said. “We never sensed that people were taking notes, on both the name on the envelope and the ballot inside, and how it may be marked.”

Allen declined to comment if one or more campaigns were recording how residents had voted.

Allen said absentee votes were now being removed from envelops face down, then scanned making it more difficult for workers to associate names with votes.

The new City Council term begins May 18.

Photo at top: Representatives from the both the Garza and Pope campaigns and media watch a recount of some of the 10th Ward ballots following the April 7 election. (Lizz Giordano/Medill)