Site Map
Voting News
Contact Us
About Us

is NOT!
associated with

Incumbents allege fraud   (IL)

MICAH MAIDENBERG    Chicago Journal    14 May 2008

A group of candidates for the local school council at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen has petitioned Chicago Public Schools to rerun the April 16 LSC election, citing irregularities in the voting process and during the counting and recording of ballots. The group has hired a lawyer and filed a challenge with CPS.

"There's a number of us who feel the election was unfair, who feel the election was not legally done," said Cuahutemoc Morfin, the LSC's current vice president.

The election swept all but one of the incumbents off the council, including Luz Velazco, the president, and Morfin, at a time of major changes at the school: A long-anticipated expansion project is underway, and the LSC is hiring a principal after declining to renew the current principal's contract in January.

The challenge alleges multiple problems during election day.

Notably, it alleges potential fraud. Voters used pencils to cast ballots, the challenge says, "creating a situation amenable to vote fraud." Voting machines were used during previous elections.

The challenge alleges the polls opened at least 45 minutes late; election judges gave incorrect instructions and spoke little or no Spanish, detrimental for the mostly Spanish-speaking voters; and voters who spoiled their ballots were unable to turn them in and vote on a new one.

During the vote count, which lasted until at least 2 a.m., according to the challenge, "exhausted" judges refused to count votes out loud; were not paying attention; laughed during the counting; and arbitrarily chose tallies when their counts disagreed.

The challenge alleges, for example, Steve Vidal, a teacher candidate for the council, won two initial counts but lost a third by 25 votes.

"Instead of conducting another recount, the judges decided to use the results from the third count," the challenge says.

Jose Alvarez, head of CPS's local school council office, confirmed a hearing about the election is scheduled for May 21. A hearing officer will take testimony and make a recommendation to Arne Duncan, chief education officer at CPS, about whether or not to rerun the election. But Alvarez said CPS had election monitors at Juarez during election day and during the vote.

"They signed off on the vote count and that was pretty much it. They were there until 2 a.m.," Alvarez said. "Based on the information [I received], based on the facts, it is my opinion everything went fine."

Regardless of the outcome of the hearing, few would dispute the election was hotly contested. Multiple slates competed for the council and more than 900 people voted.

The results of the election were close. Three votes separated Velazco and the parent representative candidate with the next highest vote total while eight votes separated Morfin from the community representative candidate with the next highest tally.

The winning slate included candidates associated with Pilsen-based non-profit organizations seen as close to 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis, including Alvaro Obregon, a manager at The Resurrection Project, and Rita Aguilar, who works with the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council. Both Obregon and Aguilar won community representative seats.

Obregon said he decided to run for the LSC to ensure Juarez is a springboard to higher education and tackle the school's -out problem. Aguilar said she wants Juarez to be a draw for students leaving Pilsen to attend high school in other neighborhoods.

Both said they could envision additional partnerships between Juarez and neighborhood organizations.

"For us it's a natural fit to work with people who feel they want to improve the quality of education," Obregon said. "We had something to offer. Why shouldn't we be part of the process?"

Obregon and Aguilar's slate, which also included three parent candidates, all of whom were elected, went door knocking, tapped networks of friends and family to get out their vote and had a van to transport people to the high school.

"A lot of people voted for the slate," he said. "We did very good outreach."

But Morfin claimed the election was tangled in Pilsen's intense local politics, alleging the non-profits worked with Solis's office to get him off the council. Morfin ran against Solis in last year's aldermanic elections.

"It was like a presidential election. You had the whole machine out there," Morfin said.

Obregon denied coordinating with the alderman's office, saying he tries to work with all of Pilsen's groups and factions.

"I knew that people would say things, and say, 'Oh well, Solis is behind it,'" Obregon said. "With something like that, if I'm working toward the bigger picture, I can't let those types of things stop me from making my community better. There was no conspiracy theory."

Solis could not be reached as of press time for comment.

Previous Page

Election Problem Log image
2004 to 2009


Accessibility Issues
Accessibility Issues

Cost Comparisons
Cost Comparisons

Flyers & Handouts

VotersUnite News Exclusives

Search by

Copyright © 2004-2010 VotersUnite!