Tom Kacich: Challenging signatures 'a joke'

Tom Kacich: Challenging signatures 'a joke'

You would think that the powers-that-be wouldn't want to mess with a group that got petition signatures from more than 500,000 everyday Illinoisans who apparently are miffed about the way legislative districts are drawn, and who want to take control of that process from the politicians.

This being Illinois, of course you would be wrong.

The staff at the State Board of Elections has rejected more than half of the signatures in a random, statewide sample of 25,000 of those submitted by Yes for Independent Maps. It's the group that wants to take the power to draw legislative maps away from the Legislature and give it to an independent commission.

And now Yes for Independent Maps is trying to "rehabilitate" those signatures, to prove that they are valid and should be counted.

One of those signatures that was contested belongs to 87-year-old Floyd Gordon of Champaign.

"I just think they're looking at any way they can to defeat this thing and keep it from getting on the ballot," said Gordon, who called the effort to challenge his signature "a joke."

He said he signed the petition at a Lions Club meeting where former Champaign County Board Chair Barbara Wysocki spoke about the effort.

"We all signed it there," Gordon said. "I think it's a joke the way (legislators) set up the boundaries to suit themselves. Wherever they can get the best support, that's where they put the boundaries. We've got to get that stopped."

Last week Trent Shepard of Urbana, one of the local volunteers who spearheaded the local effort to collect signatures earlier this year (they got more than 12,000 in Champaign County), was asked to track down eight people who had signed the petition and whose signatures were being challenged, and get them to sign affidavits acknowledging that the signatures were valid.

Remarkably, he found all eight of them in a 48-hour period.

"I think I had a phone number with only one of them. With the rest there were no phone numbers so I just had to track them down. You know nobody's in the phone book any more," he said.

The affidavits also had to be notarized, adding another step to the process.

"My goal was to get every damn one of them. I'd hate to see them keep us off (the ballot) because we were one affidavit short," he said.

Meanwhile the Chicago-based "Yes" group sent requests for copies of signed voter registration cards to more than 60 election authorities around the state, including Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten. He said he got two separate Freedom of Information Act requests for voter registration cards — which include a signature — for about 55 Champaign County voters who had signed the petition. He was able to provide same-day service, he said, sending the information by FedEx.

But not every election authority responded so promptly.

"With FOIA requests they don't have to come back immediately. There's like a two-week window with which they can return a FOIA request," said Michael Kolenc, the campaign manager for the "Yes" group. "We sent out these requests last week but not all of them have come back. If a FOIA officer is on vacation that request won't be filled until they get back, especially in some of these smaller localities.

"This is a hugely time intensive process. We believe the signatures are there. We are still rehabilitating signatures as we speak. This is going to be a long process."

Although the staff at the state board of elections bounced a high percentage of petition signatures, Kolenc said he's confident his group will prevail.

"We submitted 4,115 requests for evidence of what we think are valid signatures. We have a high, high confidence that those are all good signatures," he said.

A board of elections hearing officer will begin Friday to review every one of the signatures, Kolenc said, in a process that likely will take several days. Once that process is concluded the hearing officer will make a recommendation and the eight-member board will make its determination about whether enough signatures are valid to put the issue on the November general election ballot. The board vote likely will come at its July 1 meeting.

Kolenc believes there are significant problems with the board of elections' process for reviewing petitions signatures. Those problems could become the basis of a lawsuit, although Kolenc isn't threatening one.

Eighteen board of elections staff members reviewed the signatures, Kolenc said.

"There were several instances where their managers were rushing them, saying. 'Hurry up, let's get through.' We have all of that documented," said Kolenc, who spent days watching the staff review the petitions in Springfield. "And because there were 18 different people examining the signatures they were not consistent in the way they did it. Some people were looking for a 100 percent match of the voter registration card you might have signed 20 years ago with the petition you might have signed when it was zero degrees outside, when you had two sets of gloves on while you were trying to hop on your bus.

"Some people were looking for a 100 percent match while others were looking for commonality. There was no consistency to the way that they were evaluating signatures."

Further, he said, board of elections staff evaluated hundreds of signatures after normal working hours when no one else was there to watch.

"That's extremely troubling," Kolenc said. "Between 4:30 and 9:13 p.m. one night they actually examined 616 signatures after the close of business without anyone present. These were all time-stamped. They admitted they did it but they didn't tell anyone they were going to do it.

"For a process that everyone wanted to go smoothly and efficiently, this was a huge mistake on their part. We felt the process wouldn't have been so rushed if the staff had been well trained on how to examine signatures."

For people like Floyd Gordon, Trent Shepard and Michael Kolenc, the episode doesn't do much for their faith in government.

"I thought the State Board of Elections, they're going to be fair and impartial. But I don't believe that any more," Shepard said. "I don't know why I believe anything."

Said Kolenc, "They're not even hiding this, that's the most astounding thing to me. But I think that for our staff and volunteers it kind of energizes us. We know that we have enough good signatures so we're going to work as hard as we can to provide evidence to that."

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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Political Observer wrote on June 11, 2014 at 1:06 pm

First of all, even though this is THE headline story leading off Page B-1 in the "Local News" section of the dead-tree edition of our pungent "Nuisance-Gazoo-Scents" local paper (and it's found in the "Local News Headlines" section online), it really is yet another extremely-slanted, one-sided, poorly-written, Tom Kacich editorial piece sashaying away as if it were a bit of news.

It definitely belongs in the Editorial Section, not in the News Section...Indeed, perhaps in the "Red Light," X-rated section of the Editiorial Section...And with a lot less cheap perfume on, too!...

Joe American wrote on June 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Don't just dazzle us with sophomoric name-calling and vacant opinions parading as facts - tell us why the story is one sided and unfactual.

Political Observer wrote on June 11, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Thanks for asking, Joe.  Remember, I'm responding to an "article" that's really a News-Gazette "editorial in drag," so to speak...so the "sophomoric name-calling and vacant opinions parading as facts" are really quite a necessary part of the essay, in order to get things on their way, and provide a smooth transition from Kacich's writing into News-Gazette reader commentary.

Facts, numbers, non-vacant opinions and other kinds of things that News-Gazette editorials almost seem, at times, to completely despise are on their way, I assure you.

Political Observer wrote on June 11, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Earlier articles, months ago, documented that the so-called "Fair Maps Proposal" (a.k.a. "Fair Maps for Millionaires and Billionaires") got started on its way in Champaign County when Al Nudo and Michael Golenc got to know each other, and Nudo decided to try to do at the state level (with Golenc's "Fair Maps for Millionaires and Billionaires" plan) what he'd earlier failed to do at the Champaign  County level, when he'd attempted to take county map-making out of the hands of Champaign County Democrats and turn it over instead to Right-Wing Rick Winkel and his Republican friends.  (Winkel's plan was to have Republicans sit at computers when they drew their Republican maps, so then he and Nudo could refer to their work product as "unbiased maps, drawn by computers!")

Political Observer wrote on June 11, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Now, many readers are probably familiar with the acronym "DINOSAUR," which stands for "Democrat In Name Only, Simply An Undercover Republican."

 
After meeting with Golenc, Nudo started up the local drive to take state level map-drawing powers away from Democrats by calling upon his old "DINOSAUR" friends, Steve Beckett and Barbara Wysocki... (apparently fellow "DINOSAUR" Brendan McGinty must have been unavailable at the time).


Beckett and Wysocki then came up with a plan to finagle the local League of Women's Voters into pushing the project, since Wysocki, as League President, could use her marketing skills to sell "Independent Maps" as a pie-in-the-sky type of "Panacea Plan," that no one who was a fair-minded individual could possibly object to.


After all, who wouldn't want to do anything and everything they could possibly do, in order to make millionaires and billionaires happier?   Heh-heh-heh!  (Suckers!)

 

Actually, the people who were asked to sign the petitions were never told of the millions of dollars that went into backing the plan.  Basically, the signers all along were just being played for fools.  Many of them didn't even know that the Amendment didn't even apply to U.S. Congressional Districts!

 

In fact, League of Women Voters members and their cohorts often bragged that people wanted to grab the clip boards right out of their hands and sign the petition before they could even hear the accompanying sales pitch -- as if that was something everybody should be proud of!  In other words, their gloating went something like "Hey, look how easily we can stampede the cattle off the cliff, simply by using the right techniques!  Well, aren't we just too cool for school!  Who cares what the petition actually says and does?!  We're talking a panacea here!"...

Political Observer wrote on June 11, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Here's a table, taken from [Reference #1] below, that lists some of the larger campaign contributions to "Yes! for 'Independent Maps' " that were made as of 2-26-14:

    Kenneth and Anne Griffin - $250,000
    Illinois State Chamber of Commerce - $80,000
    Harrison Steans - $50,000
    Steve Kersten - $50,000
    Robert Stuart - $50,000
    Barry MacLean - $50,000
    Gordon Segal - $40,000
    Illinois Manufacturers Association - $35,000
    Barbara Stewart - $30,000
    Alexander and Robin Stuart - $25,000
    Robin Steans - $25,000
    James S Crown - $25,000
    Jim and Maxine Farrell - $25,000
    Jennifer Steans - $25,000
    Roger Stone - $25,000
    Leo Smith - $25,000
    M. Blair Hull - $25,000
    Bill and Cathy Osborn - $20,000
    Peter Huizenga - $15,000
    Jerry Reinsdorf - $10,000
    Michael Keiser - $10,000
    Ronald Gidwitz - $10,000
    William Kunkler - $10,000
    Sheli Rosenberg - $10,000
    Ed Bachrach - $10,000

The Michael Bloomberg ($500,000) and Crown Family ($100,000) contributions mentioned in my earlier post are discussed in [Reference #2] below.

[Reference #1.]

http://www.ilreference.com/recipients/Chicago/25440_Yes_for_Independent_...



[Reference #2.]

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-04-01/news/chi-big-money-behind-...

 

Daxndata wrote on June 11, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Stop trying to bully people to get them to think the way thet YOU want them to.  Bottom line is that the maps are VERY skewed in an attempt to keep a particular party in a seat in the legislature.  Good thing the county lines arent as goofy as the district are.  There is no good and legitimate reason to have the districts drawn the way they are on the map.  Any attempted refutation will immediately be called for what it is...BS.

 

The state board of elections system is assumed to be a fair way to apply the election laws in the state.  There should be a level of transparancy in that office to make one wonder where the board boundaries are.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 11, 2014 at 6:06 pm
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Thank you once again, Political Observer, for reminding us that gratuitous gerrymandering that spits in the face of the very idea of representative democracy is OK....as long as Democrats are doing it, of course!  If Republicans were in control of map drawing, it goes without saying that you would be going red in the face extolling the virtues of an independent map drawing commission!

But, hey, that kind of inconsistency will happen when the only real principle you hold is what's best for your chosen side of the left-right fallacy.

This is why district drawing for every level of government in every state should be controlled by an independent commission.  It's time to take it out of the hands of rabid partisan ideologues like Political Observer on both sides of the aisle for good.

pattsi wrote on June 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Just afor clarificaton--states can not change the boundaries of federal legislative districts.

Are Congressional districts included in this reform?

No.  This initiative only includes Illinois House and Senate districts. In Illinois, a citizen-driven Constitutional amendment can only reform the state-level redistricting process.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 13, 2014 at 1:06 am
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"Just afor clarificaton--states can not change the boundaries of federal legislative districts."

Actually, yes, they can.

pattsi wrote on June 13, 2014 at 11:06 pm

Please explain the process.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 14, 2014 at 1:06 am
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In most states, including Illinois, the state legislature draws the federal (congressional) districts every ten years.  In some states (California and Iowa are two), voters have given independent map drawing commissions the power to draw congressional districts.

UrbanaJake wrote on June 15, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Thanks for the input.

UrbanaJake wrote on June 15, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Very thought provoking.