Unlikely Cohen Will Make Ballot, Election Lawyer Says - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Unlikely Cohen Will Make Ballot, Election Lawyer Says



    Scott Lee Cohen says challenges amount to "incumbent protection plan." (Published Thursday, June 17, 2010)

    Election lawyer Burt Odelson says he's not a betting man, but he doesn't think Scott Lee Cohen will have enough valid signatures to get on the ballot for governor in November.

    Furthermore, Odelson says established case law effectively negates Cohen from even running.

    "This is a case of what we call a case of 'first impression,'" he said. "If you partook in the primary, you couldn't change parties during the election cycle and switch over to another party."

    Odelson is an expert in election law -- he was hired by the Bush/Cheney campaign during the hanging chad fiasco -- and will be leading the effort to check the validity of signatures submitted by Cohen and another Independent governor hopeful, Bill "Dock" Walls.

    Twenty to 40 volunteers will immediately begin poring over the submitted documents after Monday's 5 p.m. deadline.  Collected signatures will be cross-checked against a primary election database, and those from people who aren't registered voters or those who were signed by someone else will be deemed invalid.

    But Odelson contends that anyone who voted or took part in the last primary will also be knocked off.  And he said that limitation extends to those collecting signatures: prove the collector is ineligible and all the signatures they've acquired are also deemed invalid. 

    "I would like to know what his reasoning is," Cohen later questioned. "I took the time to research the candidate's handbook for 2010. There was nothing in there stating that. In fact, it clearly, in black and white says that if you signed a position in the primary for a candidate, whether it's Democrat or Republican, you are still able to sign the ballot of an Independent during the General."

    Cohen needs 25,000 valid signatures to get his name on the ballot and says the petition challenge "is nothing short of an incumbent protection plan."

    Odelson admits that having a third-party candidate makes things especially difficult for the candidate trying to hold onto office.

    "I think it always hurts the incumbent, whether it's Pat Quinn or someone else. I think it hurts incumbents whenever you divvy up the Democrat vote or the Republican vote," he said.

    Still, Cohen remains confident.

    "I have overcome many challenges and obstacles in my short political career," he said. "I am very confident I will be on that ballot."