2011 Chicago mayoral petitions, already under scrutiny, now available for public viewing

The early field is crowded for the 2011 election for mayor

So a minister, a developer and a registered sex offender walk into a polling place…

Sounds like the start of a joke, but this being Chicago, and election season, it’s not far off from the truth.

If you’ve been following the news, you know that questions are swirling around a homeless man—identified in the papers as a convicted sex offender named Arthur Hardy Jr.—who reportedly circulated nominating petitions to help a minister (the Rev. James Meeks) and an industrial developer (Robert Halpin) get on the ballot for Chicago mayor.

Among the questions:

  • Were voter signatures forged on the petitions?
  • Did Hardy really circulate all those petitions himself?
  • Was the notary public stamp a fake?
  • How did Hardy end up in the employ of two supposedly rival campaigns?

Hopefully definitive answers will be forthcoming, although Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown has been doing a good job at chipping away at the mystery. Brown also answered a question many folks likely have: Is it even legal to pay folks to circulate nominating petitions?

Yup, “and a lot of candidates do it,” wrote Brown.

It’s also legal to hire felons to do the signature gathering. Illinois law “only requires that petition circulators be 18 and a U.S. citizen,” according to the Chicago Tribune. For more on this, Steve Edwards at WBEZ put together a nice primer on Chicago mayoral nominating petitions. Also helping to sort this all out will be the cops. State police now are looking into allegations of hanky panky with petitions.

Anyway, the Better Government Association got a hold of nominating petitions for all of the mayoral candidates, and we put them online as a public service. For many would-be voters, what we’re releasing here might not seem terribly exciting. But we’re making the petitions available regardless, in the interest of promoting transparency and access to information that’s not easy for most folks to get at. Consider this a beginning; as the election forges ahead, we’ll be adding more resources.

2011 Chicago Mayoral Race — Nominating Petitions

>>VIEW THE NOMINATING PETITIONS

NOTE: M. Tricia Lee’s documents weren’t available in electronic format, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. However, they can be inspected at the board’s offices at 69 W. Washington St. Also, Tyrone Carter filed a statement of candidacy, but no signed petitions.

Please let us know if you see anything else strange in the documents.

After all, we need a good punch line.

This blog entry was reported and written by Robert Herguth, the BGA’s editor of investigations. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or at rherguth@bettergov.org.

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7 Comments

Filed under 2011 Mayoral Election

7 responses to “2011 Chicago mayoral petitions, already under scrutiny, now available for public viewing

  1. Gary D.

    I think you are on to something here. This is the type of info that the curious will appreciate and those that have been involved in tossing a candidate off the ballot will understand. It also gives those that are not knowledgeable of the nominating process a chance to see just how loose the process is. I think this is great and will be looking forward to seeing what else you have up your sleeve. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Rusty

    The BGA doesn’t see a privacy issue here? Maybe not -legally-, but a lot of people might not want their addresses posted to the internet so publicly. And a lot of aggregator sites might make use of these scans.

    • Rusty,

      Thanks for your comment. In advance of posting the nominating petitions for the 2011 Chicago mayoral election, BGA discussed all sides of the argument. In the end, we came down on the side of posting, as they are public records, i.e. anyone can obtain this information. Not only is this an effort for transparency, but also an effort to stimulate the conversation around what should or should not be part of the public record in today’s world. We believe strongly that posting these petitions will be a net positive that influences much needed discussion and, possibly, reform around election regulations and policy. Those who feel full petitions shouldn’t be part of the public record should push for an examination of government policy, which may be due for reform. We urge people to realize that when they sign a nominating petition, their name, signature and address become public.

      • Rusty

        I think that’s too glib. Yes, the petitions are a public record. But nobody has ever in the past published them to the universally available internet. It’s like when the Sun-Times decided days after the Bartman incident that they should “out” him because his name was on a few internet discussion groups, immediately ruining his life. How are you going to feel, for example, if some abuse victim who let their guard down to do a favor for a petittion-gatherer winds up being found as a result of your action? “Because we wanted to stimulate a debate about the public record laws too?” Few if anyone else had the combination of resources and incentive to do this. You’ve now made people not only in Chicago but everywhere in the state make a choice in the future: give up a degree of our privacy or participate in this part of democracy.

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  5. Jeffrey Crowell

    Just started in on Meeks petitions, and I find alot of PRINTED names- not signatures. A lot seem in the same style. Also, on sheet 84 the first 3 signatures were OBVIOUSLY wriitten by the same person. I don’t have time to go through them all, but there appears to be alot of those by multiple petition carriers. Some carriers were very good about scratching off invalid signatures though. I will say that. Its a mixed bag.

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