Write-in primary causes headache for candidates in water treatment race

SHARE Write-in primary causes headache for candidates in water treatment race

Nominating petitions are filed by candidates for Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Those running for Timothy Bradford’s spot didn’t get to file petitions. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

A write-in only primary has created an uphill battle for candidates running to replace a late commissioner on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

The sudden death of District Commissioner Timothy Bradford in December means voters will see a blank line marked “Bradford Vacancy” when casting their votes for the March primary.

The Cook County Clerk’s Office asked the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for a recommendation on how to proceed with the election process in December. Their recommendation came back on Jan. 11, a week before the Jan. 18 deadline for candidates to file their declaration of intent.

Geoffrey Cubbage, the Green Party’s candidate and secretary for the Illinois party, says the process was “rushed” and the clerk’s office is filling the position in the “hardest possible way.”

“The clerk did all the things they were legally required to do, but the goal here isn’t to educate Cook County residents,” Cubbage said. “It’s been an all Democrat board for 20 years, and the Green Party feels like the plan is to keep it that way.”

Cubbage also says there was no public announcement of candidates for the wastewater treatment district. There are five spots open on the nine-member board.

Nick Shields, director of communications for the clerk’s office, said the office promotes voting in general, but “no promotion of one race over another.”

To advance to the November ballot, Cubbage, the only Green Party candidate, would have to receive 1,720 write-in votes. Democratic Party candidates would have to receive 8,075 votes — those numbers reflect the signatures the candidates would have needed to get their names on the ballot. There are no Republican candidates in the race.

According to the clerk’s website, Cubbage’s Democratic challengers are Frank Avila, the son of the district’s current chairman of finance; Karen Bond, Joe Cook, M. Cameron “Cam” Davis, Simon Gordon and Sharon Waller.

Jim Allen, the communications director for the Chicago Board of Elections, said that being a write-in candidate presents its own challenges, but for the water reclamation races there are additional challenges.

“If your name gets printed on the ballot, people have an obvious opportunity to vote for you,” Allen said. “Write-in candidates have to educate voters. You have to find people and convince them to write your name and ‘x’ the spot next to it.”

Cubbage said that he’s done phone-banking and has gone door to door to educate people on the write-in vote.

“The water district is one of the most important elections in the county because everyone who owns a home in Cook is affected,” Cubbage said. “It’s unacceptable that the one-party rule has allowed for such stagnation.”

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