[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n a battle of “he said, she said,” a South Side aldermanic candidate is accusing the incumbent alderman of harassing residents by sending city paid staffers to challenge nominating petition signatures and harass supporters of the challenger.
At a press conference on last Friday in front of City Hall, 12th Ward candidate Pete DeMay chastised and lamented incumbent Ald. George Cardenas for what he referred to as “blatant voter harassment” in the ward.
“Sending city employees to grill residents about signing a nominating petition is not fair and not democratic. It’s an abuse of power,” DeMay said.
Backed by his campaign team and residents of 12th Ward communities, the challenger blasted Cardenas and his staff for allegedly harassing residents at their homes and around the neighborhood.
According to DeMay, Cardenas and his team of volunteers went around the 12th Ward neighborhoods and collected about 2,000 signatures for their nominating petition. But, after a petition objection, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners whittled the number to around 700 signatures.
A candidate needs 473 valid signatures to be legally placed on the February ballot.
“We found out that the Chicago Board of Elections process heavily favors the mayor’s chosen incumbents,” DeMay said. “We lost nearly two thirds of our signatures because the Board’s handwriting experts decided that many signatures weren’t exactly like the ones on a voter’s registration card.”
DeMay and his camp accused Cardenas’ paid staffers from the 12th Ward Office of camping out at the election commissioner’s office and arguing against signatures while working for the ward.
Not long after the petition was submitted in November, DeMay said he started to hear about people harassing voters. He claims that Cardenas’ staffers approached residents who had signed his petition and asked them “if their signatures had been forged and if they want to sign an affidavit,” thus denouncing the forgery, he said.
“It’s time for these shenanigans to end. It’s time for George Cardenas to put his staff to work on fixing the myriad of problems that exist in the 12th Ward,” DeMay said.
In a press release after the conference, the Cardenas camp called DeMay desperate.
“The DeMay Campaign is resorting to desperate measures to hide their own shady campaign practices,” read the release.
According to Cardenas, DeMay’s campaign coerced and lied to voters to obtain their signatures and preyed upon residents who did not speak English by circulators who used tricks. Cardenas said that the DeMay circulators hid the name on the petitions and lied about whom the ballots were for.
Cardenas was not available for further comment at the time of publishing.
DeMay wants to settle the matter and demanded that Cardenas hand over his staffers’ time sheets to the election board. He hopes to show that staffers paid by city resident’s taxes have used their time to campaign instead of work for the ward.
“Let the people of Chicago see how much of their tax money is going to George Cardenas’s re-election campaign, so he can be judged by the voters accordingly,” DeMay said.
DeMay said that if he sees enough evidence to prove his allegations, he may seek a lawsuit against Cardenas but it was too early to tell.
DeMay is currently awaiting the pending recommendation from the election commission to determine if he has enough valid signatures to be put on the February ballot.
At press time Tuesday afternoon the website for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said “Recommendation Pending” regarding the challenge filed against Demay.
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