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State attorney general’s office investigating alleged vote-buying in 25th Ward

Voters cast their ballots at the Galewood Community United Church on the West Side during the Illinois Primary last year. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file photo

Authorities confirmed Tuesday evening they’re investigating allegations of vote-buying by a 25th Ward aldermanic candidate in the crowded Southwest Side race to replace embattled Ald. Danny Solis.

The Illinois attorney general’s office dispatched two attorneys to a polling place at 1354 S. Morgan St. late Tuesday to look into reports by the poll-watching Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights that supporters for Byron Sigcho-Lopez were offering gift cards to 25th Ward voters if they punched his ballot number.

Matthew Owens, a field captain volunteering for the Lawyers’ Committee, said that poll watchers for the group made the reports to the Board of Election Commissioners of Chicago, the Illinois attorney general and the Cook County state’s attorney after speaking with voters who said they were offered the gift cards at that polling place inside the B.J. Wright Court apartments in exchange for voting for Sigcho-Lopez.

The problems were reported around 8:35 a.m., and field volunteers uncovered evidence of potential vote-buying between noon and 1 p.m., Owens said. Around 6:15 p.m., “another one our field volunteers spoke with a voter and learned that vote-buying had resumed,” Owens said.

Zoe Chan, a spokeswoman for Sigcho-Lopez’s campaign, said she was still gathering facts but had spoken with a precinct captain at the location.

“We take very seriously any allegations of this nature,” she said. “We are committed to conducting a rigorous investigation into it. Should we uncover anything in our investigation that would seem to contravene some kind of election law, we would be the first to contact the authorities.”

Sigcho-Lopez, a University of Illinois at Chicago instructor, faces four other challengers to take the seat about to be vacated by Solis, who announced he wouldn’t seek re-election months before it was revealed that he wore a wire in a criminal investigation into Chicago’s longest-serving Ald. Ed Burke (14th).

A spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx also confirmed that her office was “contacted and made aware of the complaint.”

The Chicago Board of Elections also sent an investigator to the polling place at 1354 S. Morgan St. and contacted the Illinois attorney general’s office based on what they learned.