Can the three-way Urbana Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday get any weirder?
Sure it can, and it seems it will. Mayoral challenger Laurel Prussing said she'll have supporters challenge any Republicans who attempt to vote in Tuesday's Democratic primary if they had signed a nominating petition for any of the Republican candidates (including John Farney, George Gore, Anna Wall Scott, Louis Mesker, Heather Stevenson and even Damian Rend -- who dropped out of the mayoral race) in this year's city elections.
They cite a part of the state election law that says that "no person shall be entitled to vote at a primary..."
"Who shall have signed the petition for nomination of a candidate of any party with which he does not affiliate, when such candidate is to be voted for at the primary."
But although Democratic lawyers who support Prussing contend the law would prevent some Republicans (fewer than 200) from voting in the Democratic primary, Democratic lawyers who support Mayor Tod Satterthwaite say it shouldn't.
"This provision is only in effect when the candidate for which the voter signed the petition is 'to be voted at' for this election," said a memo to election judges that was written primarily by Bill McGrath, a Satterthwaite supporter.
"In Urbana this year, there are no Republican candidates 'to be voted for at this primary,' thus making this provision inapplicable."
McGrath said that "election judges cannot deny the voter his or her right to vote without a clear statutory basis for doing so and no such statutory basis exists here."
So it appears that election judges in each individual precinct -- and in some precincts there will be more Republican judges than Democratic judges making the determination -- will decide who gets to vote and who doesn't. That means that in some precincts on Tuesday -- mostly in east and south Urbana -- there could be mini-courtroom dramas played out as Democrats argue among each other over the voting rights of Republicans.
It's possible that the results of Tuesday's election -- if it's a close finish -- could be contested in court.
No one in either camp is making any election predictions (except that the third candidate, Shirley Hursey, will not be the winner). It all hinges on the turnout. Will Satterthwaite get a lot of support from normally Republican voters? Will he be able to hold enough regular Democrats? Will Prussing get a big turnout in student precincts that normally get only a handful of voters? Will her superior organization turn out the vote? Will the city council primary contests in three wards (4, 5 and 7) boost the turnouts there and help Prussing?
BTW, Prussing's TV spots were on cable and broadcast TV throughout the weekend. She bought time on the 6 and 10 o'clock news shows on WICD and WCIA. And although she hadn't ordered any on ESPN, I saw a few there too. That will not hurt her. Nowadays, that's about the only channel I watch, and I know I'm not the only one.
One more thing: My wife just called from home -- she's a teacher and had today off -- and said she just got a recorded phone mesage from former Urbana Mayor Jeff Markland -- a Republican who was defeated for re-election by Tod Satterthwaite -- urging her to vote for Satterthwaite on Tuesday.
See what I mean about this race getting weirder?