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Brown sees ‘fraud’ in ballot fight, but rival says ‘woman up and be accountable’

Video by Annie Costabile

Dorothy Brown says the Chicago machine is trying to keep her off the ballot, but a lack of signatures may be the real reason her mayoral hopes may be dashed.

Two summary reports from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners show Brown is 1,173 signatures short of the required minimum of 12,500 as of Thursday morning because of a challenge Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle brought against her. A separate challenge by rival candidate Willie Wilson has Brown 183 signatures under the minimum.

But Brown says that’s not true. At a news conference Thursday the clerk of the Circuit Court said Preckwinkle is to blame for adding objections to her petitions after the deadline for challenges.

As of Dec. 31, Brown said she had almost 10,000 rulings, or signatures, in her favor — but that number mysteriously dropped to around 4,500 on Jan. 7. The rulings against her went up from about 5,000 to nearly 10,000 in the same time period.

After doing some research, she found that the city and county share petition challenge software, and the Preckwinkle was not blocked from accessing it.

Because of the shared system, Brown alleges that Preckwinkle added objections to both of the challenges against her.

“There is no logical explanation for that,” Brown said of the alleged added objections. “As the petition challenge process continues, we continue to get additional rulings. … There is no reason for challenges to go down. I’m saying that because of the fact that Cook County controls this petition summary sheet, and Cook County was not blocked from being able to make changes to it, that there is a potential for fraud.”

Brown has two status hearings Friday on the objections brought against her, but she’s also filed an emergency motion to halt the process while she seeks answers and is calling for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to investigate.

Jim Allen, a spokesman for the city’s Board of Election Commissioners, and Preckwinkle’s attorney, Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, say those claims are false.

Allen said Brown is “conflating two different issues” and the county and city share software because in some years they have to hear objections for congressional, state representative and state senate candidates where the districts straddle both the city and the county.

“There’s been an accurate tabulation throughout,” Allen said. “Currently the candidate is 1,100 signatures under the threshold of 12,500. We’ll see how it goes before the hearing officer and before it goes there it’s going to go to a hand writing expert, so they’ll be reviewing any kind of signature questions and we’ll go forward from there.”

Allen showed the last few pages of Brown’s petition sheets in which the handwriting appeared similar. He said it was pages like those that brought her into question and her claims are “patently false” and “provably false.”

View this document on ScribdKrafthefer stressed that nothing had been added to the original challenge.

When challenges are filed there might be several objections to one signature, so the summary report can show the number of objections sustained and the number of objections overruled and another can show the number of signatures invalidated and signatures upheld, Krafthefer said.

“This is a distracting ploy of a desperate candidate,” Krafthefer said. Brown should “woman up and be accountable for the deficiencies in her own petitions.”

“Nothing has changed at all. What she’s looking at is a preliminary report that the Chicago board gave us as a courtesy … which didn’t have all of our objections entered into it by the beginning of the records check … She didn’t give one example of a fraudulent ruling at all. She’s just blithering and speaking in platitudes.”

Although he said he didn’t want to “play Vegas odds,” Allen said coming back from being 1,100 signatures down would be a “very steep climb.”

“We’ve seen rehabilitation efforts where they’ve regained 30, 50, 100 signatures, [but] never had an objection that was 1,100 down come back,” Allen said. “So it’s not impossible, but it seems highly improbable.”