Ald. Deb Mell opponent files for recount, claims ‘machine dirty tricks’

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A Chicago Public Schools teacher vying for the 33rd Ward aldermanic seat against incumbent Deb Mell filed legal paperwork on Tuesday, setting the grounds for a recount — and claiming “machine dirty tricks” — in the hotly contested election.

Tim Meegan filed the suit in Cook County Circuit Court against the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, as well as his opponents in the race, Mell and Annisa Wanat.

The Board of Elections has said that Mell has 50.17 percent to Meegan’s 34.04 percent after some absentee ballots were counted.

Absentee votes put Mel over 50 percent late last week, allowing her to avoid a runoff if the numbers hold.

To win outright on Feb. 24, candidates needed a majority, often described as getting at least 50 percent plus 1 vote. Mell fell short, until the absentee votes were counted days later.

But the board warned that the results could change as more absentee ballots come in.

Meegan’s suit seeks a full recount of all ballots cast in the Northwest Side’s 33rd Ward, including an examination of touchscreen voting machines, paper ballots, voters’ applications for ballots and precinct binder cards among other ward documents.

But the suit also makes dozens of voter fraud allegations, including that some voters were “impermissibly electioneered” to vote for Mell at the polling places by the placement of palm cards in the voting booths; and by supporters and signs within the 100-foot protective line beyond which campaigning is forbidden.

The suit also claims Mell and her father, retired-Ald. Dick Mell, came into polling places without showing credentials and urged voters to support Mell inside the polling place.

The suit claims some ballots were cast by staff at St. Paul’s Nursing Home, which didn’t represent voters, and it claims ballots cast at another nursing home were erroneously reported.

Other allegations include that votes were cast by residents who no longer live in the ward; voters misrepresented their home address; and voters were able to vote despite not being registered.

The lengthy allegations are customary in recount petitions, the job being to provide as much information as possible to try to get the court to overturn the election and conduct a recount.

Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen said his office would be responding to the allegations in court.

Requests for recounts “are rare, but they do happen,” Allen said.

In a statement, Meegan pointed the finger at the “Mell Machine.”

“While it’s shameful that we are forced to go to the courts to protect the voice of the people, we are confident that voters will get the runoff they deserve. What you’re seeing is the last gasp of a Mell Machine committed to power, not to democratic fairness.

“The behavior we saw on Election Day underlies the reasons why so many people of the 33rd Ward want change,” Meegan said.

The suit seeks an expedited schedule for a hearing, prior to April 7, when a potential runoff election would take place.
The Board of Elections has said official results, including votes from all absentee ballots, will be announced by March 11 or 12.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Mell said her lawyers are combing through the 27-page lawsuit.

“It’s important that every single vote be counted,” Mell said. “It’s important that this process is seen through and everything is vetted and counted for. We worked really hard, and I want to see this through.”

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