State Sen. Ira Silverstein survives ballot challenge by two signatures

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Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago. | The State Journal via AP

After weeks of wrangling over a challenge to embattled state Sen. Ira Silverstein’s nominating petitions, election officials on Friday ruled that he cleared the 1,000-signature requirement by just two, allowing him to remain on the ballot.

“I respect the process, and now it’s done,” said Silverstein, whose district covers the North Side and several north suburbs. “I’m glad to be able to focus on our campaign.”

Silverstein initially submitted 1,999 signatures last fall, but clerks with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners deemed more than half of them invalid, lowering his total to 955.

His attorney, James Nally, then submitted dozens of voter affidavits to hearing officer Maurice Sone, who accepted 47 of them and recommended to the board last weekend that the 1,002 signatures qualified the senator for the ballot.

But the board rejected that total in a hearing on Tuesday, when Sone acknowledged that he mistakenly double-counted a signature and two voters indicated they hadn’t signed Silverstein’s petitions, trimming his total to 999 — a single registered voter short of making the ballot.

The board ordered Sone to review all the case files, and on Thursday he amended the count to 1,004 signatures, board spokesman Jim Allen said.

Commissioners on Friday again rejected two signatures — one that was double-counted and another “signed in error,” according to the board’s ruling — but it was enough for Silverstein to clear the hurdle with 1,002 signatures.

North Side resident Beth Lanford, who filed the ballot challenge in December, did not return messages seeking comment.

Silverstein, who has held his 8th District Senate seat since 1999, said it was the first time he has faced a ballot challenge. He is facing a crowded field of primary challengers in the wake of sexual harassment allegations that were level against him last summer. Last week, the legislative inspector general cleared Silverstein of wrongdoing but labeled his behavior “unbecoming a legislator.”

Caroline McAteer-Fournier, Zehra Quadri, Ram Villivalam and David A. Zulkey are also running in the March 20 primary.

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