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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.