The Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners has apologized for a social media post that a spokesman said was supposed to be a lighthearted attempt at “Chicagoese” but that some interpreted as disrespectful to minority voters.
Jim Allen, the board’s communications director, said he sent a tweet Thursday from the board’s account in response Thursday to a tweet by Indivisible Chicago-South Side, a progressive grassroots organization with neighborhood groups across the city, promoting voter registration and early voting. The original tweet, which has since been deleted, called for residents to come to the board’s Loop Super Site “right’chere” at 175 W. Washington St.
Replying to the tweet, Allen, on the board’s account, wrote: “We welcome every eligible voter from Chicago/Diss plazes open to evvybody inda commudy.”
Allen said Friday the tweet was meant to be in the same spirit of the Indivisible post and he was trying to use “Chicagoese” — a parody of the Chicago accent/dialect made popular on “Saturday Night Live” sketches from the early 1990s. Those sketches featured several actors, including George Wendt and Chris Farley, who would play Chicago Bears fans discussing the team. However, Betsy Rubin, Indivisible Chicago South Side, said she wrote their tweet to sound like a carnival barker encouraging early voting.
“My takeaway from this is do not try this again,” Rubin said. “It’s too easy to get things misinterpreted.”
Erica Nanton called the series of replies by the board disrespectful to minorities. In Nanton’s Facebook post on Thursday night, she said she saw the Tweets after she had dropped off hundreds of voter registrations with the board that had been collected by the group GoodKids MadCity.
In response, Allen said he apologized to individuals that were offended by the posts.
“When you have to explain a joke, it’s not working,” Allen said. “If there are people who are taking it a different way, it’s not worth it.”
In a Facebook comment Nanton wrote to Allen, saying: “There’s layers to the speech used beyond geographical location but rather of a people that have been being disrespected.”
Nanton, community engagement manager for the Chicago Votes Action Fund, could not be reached for further comment.
Allen said he would not use that SNL style of “Chicagoese” on social media again.