CHICAGO, IL — Democrats across the city are running for the position of Republican ward committeeman in Chicago in an apparent bid to extend their influence within the party.
In the 23rd ward, which is within Mike Madigan’s state representative district, Robert Handzik has filed as a Republican. Handzik was among those who circulated petitions for Madigan’s fake Republican opponent two years ago. He does not attend county Republican meetings and does not respond to calls or inquiries from the Republican Party.
In the other ward within Madigan’s district, the 13th, an unknown candidate named “Gabriel Trejo” has filed. According to Board of Elections records, Mr. or Ms. Trejo has voted in the Democratic primary in the last four elections and has never voted in a Republican primary.
Of the 25 candidates who have filed as of 12:35 pm, 15 have Democratic voting histories. Nine have voted exclusively in Democratic primaries.
Even among those with recent Republican voting histories, a prior history of Democratic voting is evident.The reason for this burst of activity is two-fold.
First, as one of Pat Quinn’s last acts before leaving office, he and Mike Madigan passed a series of changes to Illinois election law. Among those changes is a new requirement that Republican ward committeeman sign off on election judges in their ward. Prior to the change, election judges could be placed by the Republican County Chairman.
Bruce Rauner used the older law to good effect in the 2014 cycle by funding an effort to put genuine Republican election judges in precincts across the city. The purpose was to control vote fraud in precincts that had previously been controlled exclusively by Democrats. With the new law, Rauner would now need to get the approval of each Republican ward committeeman to place judges in that ward — an impossible task, if the Democrats control the Republican ward commmitteman seat.
The second reason is that in 2014, the Chicago Republican Party ran candidates for office across the city, forcing Democrats to campaign in districts in which they had never had a challenge. The newly-active Republican Party caused Democrats to spend time and money in the city. Democrat-controlled Republican committeemen can impede that effort and even prevent it in some districts.
The Democrat-controlled Chicago Board of Elections recently made the process for Republican candidates in the city more difficult by quadrupling the signature requirements for Republican ward committeeman. While a Republican candidate in the 43rd ward, for example, only needed 99 signatures in the last cycle, the new requirement is 404 signatures. The rule of thumb is that a candidate should double or triple the minimum number, meaning that a simple ward committeeman slot can require 1,000 signatures. It’s much easier for a well-funded Democrat organization to get this number of signatures than a Republican one in the city.
“We’re fed up with Mike Madigan’s interference in our party,” said Chicago Republican Party Chairman Chris Cleveland. “There is no reason for him to do this, except to use election law to prevent Chicago Republicans from running for office, and to allow vote fraud to flourish.”
Republicans are currently contemplating a legal challenge.
Today (11/30/15) is the last day to file for office. More candidates are expected to file throughout the day.
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