Garcia calls for poll monitors, shows video of Burke at voting site

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Jesus “Chuy” Garcia | Rich Hein / Sun Times

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Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia on Tuesday called for special monitors to enforce polling place rules in Ald. Ed Burke’s 14th Ward and — to bolster his argument — pointed to a video he said showed Burke flouting those rules.

Garcia, at a news conference held at City Hall, said cellphone video shows Burke on Nov. 6 handing out blue tote bags emblazoned with his name and office at a polling place set up in the Car Outlet, 4530 S. Archer Ave.

Though the election that day didn’t include Burke as a candidate — aldermanic elections take place Feb. 26 — his behavior contradicted electioneering rules designed to keep promotion of political candidates of any kind well away from polling booths, Garcia said.

Garcia announced Tuesday he’d written a letter to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Lance Gough, executive director of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, asking that special monitors be assigned to 14th Ward polling places to ensure fairness and integrity.

“The 14th Ward has been a bastion of old practices and questionable practices for a long time,” Garcia said.

A message seeking comment from Burke was not immediately returned.

The Nov. 6 election included Garcia’s successful congressional run.

Shortly after Burke was spotted handing out the bags, a representative from Garcia’s campaign called city and state election officials to complain, according to Manuel Perez, who served as Garcia’s campaign manager.

An election official from the city was dispatched to the polling place, Perez said.

In the video, Burke can be heard telling someone: “Who said you couldn’t hand them out here? … What’s the problem with passing out these bags? … Call Mister Brown and tell him Alderman Burke is here, and he is objecting to his interpretation.”

Jim Allen, spokesman for the city’s Board of Election Commissioners, told reporters at City Hall Tuesday afternoon that what occurred was a violation, because they violated the rule, but not electioneering, because they left when asked, Allen said.

Garcia pointed out that Burke, as 14th Ward committeeman, picks election judges stationed at polling places in his ward.

He also claimed volunteers were collecting nominating signatures for Burke too close to the polling place as well as other polling places in the ward.

Garcia has endorsed one of Burke’s opponents, Tanya Patino in the aldermanic contest. A third candidate, Jaime Guzman, also is in the race.

Burke is fighting the toughest re-election challenge of his career in a Southwest Side ward that has grown heavily Latino since he took office in 1969.

He’s also facing a federal attempted extortion charge that already has cost him the Finance Committee chairmanship that has been his political power base for decades.

Contributing: Troy Closson

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