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Andrea Raila deserves answers in the botched assessor’s election

“There needs to be an investigation at the federal level," Raila said. "No candidate should ever have to go through what I had to go through — starting with a fake petition challenge — that erupted into slanderous allegations in the media that were used by my opponent." | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

We should care that Andrea Raila didn’t get her fair shot in the assessor’s race.

Maybe the turnout would have been the same regardless. Fritz Kaegi got 44.4 percent of the votes, compared to Joe Berrios’ 35.12 percent. Raila got 20.49 percent.

In this contest, integrity and fairness were the primary issues.

Yet Raila is claiming she has been robbed of a significant number of votes because election officials failed to discard notices that declared she had been disqualified.

That mistake didn’t just cheat Raila, it cheated her supporters.

“It was a gross violation of a free and equal election,” she said.

Like a lot of candidates, Raila scuffled for media attention. But she also spent a great deal of time fighting Kaegi’s challenges to her nomination petitions.

“It was a whole media-driven narrative that I am this nameless third candidate, and that was an injustice in and of itself,” Raila told me, describing her campaign as “on and off then stolen.”

Last week, Raila finally prevailed in court.

“Three appellate court judges unanimously overturned the hearing officer’s ruling, saying it was an abuse of his power and [there] was no election law that supported that fake petition challenge,” Raila said.

“They demanded that the notices be taken out of the ballot booth. But the green and white notices were posted at polling places during 12 long days of early voting. That hurt me,” she said.

On Tuesday, the Chicago Board of Election mistakenly advised judges to give Democratic voters the green and white notice indicating Raila had been disqualified and votes for her would not be counted.

Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said once they realized their mistake, six text messages were sent out in an attempt to stop the distribution of the flyers.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Cook County Clerk David Orr said there were no credible reports of the erroneous notice being handed out to voters at suburban polling places.

But Raila makes a valid point when she claims that some election judges could have been “confused.”

“If this happened in the attorney general’s race; if this happened to Kwame [Raoul] or any of the other candidates; if it happened to the governor’s race, they would be calling for a new election,” she said.

“We should be just as concerned over the tax assessor’s race and the failure of election officials to have a fair, clean and unbiased election,” Raila said.

“Before the votes get certified, I want to make it very clear it was a very serious breach of election integrity,” she said.

“There needs to be an investigation at the federal level. No candidate should ever have to go through what I had to go through — starting with a fake petition challenge — that erupted into slanderous allegations in the media that were used by my opponent.”

I agree.

While we in the media are calling the mix-up a “flap” and a “gaffe,” this is much more than that because the only remedy is a do-over.

This is a disaster.

Additionally, all of Raila’s efforts have gone to waste.

It takes a lot of heart — not to mention a hefty sum of money — to take on an incumbent, especially when that incumbent has a leadership role in his or her party.

Berrios would still be thumbing his nose at his critics and romping at the polls had a report not concluded that he was lording over an unfair taxing system.

According to credible studies, the assessor’s office had placed the bulk of the property tax burden on the backs of poorer homeowners while wealthy homeowners were being cut some slack.

Even so, as chairman of the Cook County Department Party, Berrios had obligatory support from a lot of his fellow Democrats.

Kaegi got support among prominent Democrats, including the endorsements of U.S. Reps. Danny K. Davis (7th), Bill Foster (11th) and Robin Kelly (2nd).

So Raila had a huge mountain to climb. There was no need to tie her up with petition challenges.

“I understand all the talk about conflict of interest with the tax assessor and elected officials who are running tax appeal firms, and the pay-to-play system that we need to break up,” Raila said. “But what about elected officials who oversee our elections?”

This is an office that desperately needs to rebuild the public trust.

That means appointing an outside investigator to get to the bottom of Raila’s complaints and to figure out how to prevent this from happening again.