Candidate readies for write-in fight

Stephanie Chen

Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) urged more than 80 Evanston residents, family members and friends on Sunday to support the “write” candidate in the April 5 city elections.

In a packed room with jazz music, plenty of hugs and oversized posters with instructions on filling out a write-in ballot, Jean-Baptiste spoke to his audience about his campaign plans and the write-in process.

Voters will need to mark an “X” on the portion of the ballot to indicate that they are voting for a write-in candidate. They must write in “Alderman, Second Ward” for the title of the office and Jean-Baptiste’s name for candidate. The spelling doesn’t matter as long as the intent is correct, according to Illinois election rules.

“I’m asking you to put in extra effort to come out and write in ‘Lionel Jean-Baptiste,'” said Jean-Baptiste, who is seeking re-election for a second term.

The Evanston Electoral Board removed Jean-Baptiste from the ballot on Feb. 11 because his petition ballots were incomplete. Second Ward resident Robert Nierodzik filed complaints charging that the ballots did not specify Jean-Baptiste was running for alderman.

In his speech at the Evanston YWCA, Jean-Baptiste said Nierodzik’s “personal beef” with him will not affect his chances of winning. He asked his constituents to look at his record and stressed his hard work as alderman for the past four years. He highlighted his platform, focusing on resolving issues with Northwestern relations, encouraging the hiring of local residents for city projects and developing more youth projects.

“I take my responsibility seriously,” he said. “I fight to make sure I’m there, and when I’m there, I fight to make sure I’m heard.”

Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) attended the event to show her support. She said Second Ward residents deserve a choice on the ballot.

Karen Bond, a Second Ward resident, said Jean-Baptiste’s removal from the ballot may hurt his chances of winning because residents may not be informed on how to fill out the write-in ballot.

“Taking his name off the ballot due to a technicality disenfranchises African-American voters in Evanston,” Bond said.

Many voters are outraged at the decision to remove Jean-Baptiste from the ballot, said Dickelle Fonda, a campaign volunteer. Nierodzik’s actions have simply sparked more supporters to help with the campaign, she said.

“It has brought a lot of attention that wouldn’t have happened anyways,” Fonda said. “There’s a lot of momentum in the campaign.”

Peter Braithwaite, a campaign volunteer, said the event gave residents an opportunity to meet their alderman in person. The write-in strategy won’t affect the outcome, he said.

“He’s still running on service,” Braithwaite said. “He is committed to the ward and dedicated to Evanston.”

Reach Stephanie Chen at [email protected].