Making a federal case out of it | Bleader

Monday, February 5, 2007

Making a federal case out of it

Posted By on 02.05.07 at 12:40 PM

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Most aldermanic wannabes walk away in anger once they've been booted from the ballot. But Chris Lawrence is fighting back.

Lawrence, an Iraq war veteran, was running against Mary Ann Smith in the 48th Ward when he was stricken from the ballot last month. It was a technicality: he'd filed his economic disclosure statement with the county clerk, as the rule requires. But he'd failed to file the receipt the clerk gave him with the Board of Election Commissioners. "It was an inadvertent oversight," he says.

After Smith challenged his candidacy he attempted to file the receipt but was told sorry, too late. An election board hearing officer ordered him removed from the ballot, and when he appealed to the full board the ruling was upheld.

Curiously, the election board was more forgiving of 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis, allowing him to remain on the ballot even though he'd made a mistake in his nominating petitions. In Solis's case the election board ruled that the error was inadvertent.

Last Thursday Lawrence filed a federal suit, charging that the punishment, banishment from the ballot, did not fit the crime. "The law is intended to make sure you file your economic disclosure statment. I met with the intent of the law," says Lawrence. "The interpretation by the board is inconsistent with the purpose of the law."

He's hoping the federal judge will postpone the aldermanic election until the matter is resolved. "The system is unconstitutional," says Lawrence. "It's set up to discourage people from participating."

Smith bounced three challengers for various election-law technicalities and currently is running unopposed. "We're fighting for democracy in Iraq," Lawrence says, "but we don't have it in the 48th Ward."


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