Battle Over Silverstein's Petition Signatures Continues

The legal battle over whether state Sen. Ira Silverstein will be on the primary election ballot dragged on Wednesday as lawyers made their closing remarks before a final recommendation to the Chicago Board of Elections.

In the basement of the George W Dunne Cook County Office building, Hearing Officer Maurice Sone announced he would not make his recommendation Wednesday, citing the “voluminous” amount of evidence proposed by each side.

However, a decision was expected within three to four days and, regardless of the outcome, an appeal is likely.

Silverstein, a veteran lawmaker representing Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, has been embroiled in allegations of sexual misconduct since October.

A woman lobbying for a crime bill accused him of misconduct, claiming Silverstein sponsored her legislation “with the intent to degrade her” and publishing Facebook messages the two had exchanged over the course of 17 months.

In late December, election officials notified Silverstein’s campaign that he did not have enough signatures on his nominating petitions to remain on the ballot for the upcoming Democratic primary. In Illinois, at least 1,000 signatures must be collected in support of a candidate to be placed on the ballot, and Silverstein’s campaign delivered 1,999, though a legal challenge to the validity of some left him under the minimum requirement.

In response, Silverstein’s election lawyer James Nally filed 100 affidavits on the lawmaker’s behalf on Jan. 8 from individuals who swore under oath they had signed petitions for the embattled incumbent. However, another review — this time by Sone — dismissed the majority of those affidavits for inconsistencies in the signatures between the petitions, affidavits and voter registration cards, keeping Silverstein 19 signatures short, at last count.

The following Wednesday, more than 30 witnesses appeared in court to testify on Silverstein’s behalf, and several handwriting experts were called to speak on the petition and affidavit signatures.

Since then, Ross Secler, the attorney challenging Silverstein’s petitions, has argued that the evidence submitted in his favor did not fall within an acceptable time frame – claiming Wednesday that the issue “calls into question this entire process.”

On Wednesday, Secler suggested the possibility of fraud, referring to a witness who came to testify earlier in the month before realizing that her signature wasn’t on the petitions as her street address was spelled incorrectly.

Nally dismissed the idea of fraud, arguing that one rejected signature could not affect the validity of the rest.

Four other Democrats have filed to oppose Silverstein for the 8th District seat including Ram Villivalam, Zehra Quadri, David Zulkey and Caroline McAteer-Fournier.

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