Review finds errors on additional forms

Breanne Gilpatrick

At least one other aldermanic candidate could have been removed from the ballot if challenged and five others’ forms were missing information, according to The Daily’s review of candidates’ nominating forms.

Based on the Evanston Electoral Board’s decisions to remove Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) and Fourth Ward candidate Ryan Garton from the April 5 ballot, Eighth Ward candidate Daniel Shield also could have been removed for failing to fill in a box at the top of his petition noting the office he was seeking.

The Electoral Board voted Feb. 10 and Feb. 11 in favor of objections to remove Garton and Jean-Baptiste from the ballot for omitting similar information. Shield could not be reached for comment.

Two other candidates — Fifth Ward candidate Betty Ester and Seventh Ward candidate Junad Rizki — included that they were running for alderman but did not include the ward where they were running. No new objections can be filed because the deadline was Feb. 1.

Election packets given to individuals considering running in municipal elections include 11 pages of instructions for filling out nominating forms. But these instructions, taken from the State Board of Elections Candidates Guide, include only two sentences providing information on how the candidate must fill out the top of their petitions.

One sentence reads: “The top portion (heading) of the nominating petition pages which include information relative to the election, the candidate, the office and the political party, as applicable, must be completed prior to the circulation of the petition sheet.” The other reads: “Each petition signature page must contain precisely the same information in the heading.”

Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said those without campaign experience should consult someone before submitting petitions.

“There are many possible mistakes that can be made on petitions so you really need someone experienced in campaigns or a lawyer to make sure you do them correctly,” said Simpson, a two-term Chicago alderman and two-time U.S. congressional candidate.

Ester said she did not consult a lawyer about her petitions. But she attended two sessions last fall run by the Evanston Community Foundation about running for office, and she said based on the information she received there her petitions are filled out correctly.

She said she had to read some instructions several times and discuss them with other people before she understood them.

“They really need to clear it up so it is simple,” Ester said. “It’s not easy to understand because of the way it’s worded.”

Rizki said candidates aren’t going to want to consult a lawyer just to run for alderman.

“Who’s going to want to get an attorney if they feel they are going to be challenged or their integrity is going to be attacked?” Rizki said.

Second Ward resident Jennifer Allen-Goldstein said she knew what she was signing when she signed Jean-Baptiste’s nominating petition.

“I was positive I was signing the petition to get (Jean-Baptiste) on the ballot,” she said.

Now that both Garton and Jean-Baptiste have announced they will be running write-in campaigns, they will face a new set of legal issues.

Write-in candidates must motivate voters to make an extra effort when voting, Simpson said.

“As a general matter, write-in candidates almost always lose,” Simpson said. “Voters have a difficult time figuring out how to do write-ins.”

But incumbents such as Jean-Baptiste do have a slightly better chance because of their name recognition and base of support, he said.

Larry (Mickey III) Alexander, who ran for Fifth Ward alderman in 1993, was the last candidate to be removed from the ballot in Evanston. He also ran a write-in campaign against Ald. Joseph Kent (5th) and Rochelle Whyte-Washington, and records show he received five votes.

The last Evanston candidate to win a write in campaign was District 202 School Board member Jane Colleton in 1991.

Mat Delort, a Chicago lawyer who practices election law, said campaigns should hand out literature to tell voters they must place an “X” next to the write-in option, then write in the name of the office and the candidate. Campaigns should have poll watchers to make sure write-in votes are counted correctly, he said. Name spelling is not an issue as long as the voter’s intent is clear.

“It’s a matter of educating voters to do it correctly so all of the votes are counted correctly,” Delort said.

Reach Breanne Gilpatrick at [email protected].