Hearing set for today for two men seeking to remain on 37th Ward ballot

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Two men vying to represent the 37th Ward in the Chicago City Council seat have been accused of compiling fraudulent signatures on their petition filings, among other allegations.

Rena Hardy and Darryl Jackson objected to the petition forms filed last month by Leroy Duncan and Otis Percy Jr.

The petitions are required for anyone hoping to be a candidate in the Feb. 24 election; candidates running for any of the 50 aldermanic posts had to collect at least 473 signatures from residents within the ward they are hoping to represent.

Five total people – including Duncan and Percy – plan to run for the race. The other candidates are current Ald. Emma Mitts, teacher Tara Stamps and Maretta Brown-Miller, a Chicago Park District employee who ran in the last aldermanic election.

Citywide, 173 complaints were filed by Dec. 3, the date when objections had to be made to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

Both complaints filed against Duncan and Percy allege they have forged and duplicate  signatures. Some signatures are of those who don’t live within ward boundaries, while others were of those not registered to vote in relation to their listed addresses, the complaints said.

A specific issue taken with Percy’s petitions suggests he turned in the wrong paperwork.

The complaint, filed by Rena Hardy, who couldn’t be reached for comment, states Percy’s petitions show he will be running in the general primary election under the Democratic Party, even though he’s running for the municipal election, according to the complaint. Thatclaim of party affiliation is a violation of election code, since municipal elections are non-partisan.

Percy told AustinTalks the city’s election officials directed him to get petition papers from the Illinois State Board of Elections, which gave him a template for the general primary. That paperwork asks the candidate to claim a party affiliation.

Percy said he didn’t question it because he assumed the state office knew what it was doing. He sent AustinTalks the template he said he received, which can be viewed here.

In response to the complaint about his signatures, Percy said he reminded each signee they must live within the ward and double-checked each address, removing ones outside boundaries before turning in his petition.

Beyond that, he said it was impossible for him to know whether signatures were forged or if people were actually registered voters.

“I can’t control what people do,” Percy said.

His hearing is scheduled for noon Wednesday, Dec. 10 in the lower level conference room at the city election board headquarters, 69 W. Washington.

Duncan’s objector, Darryl Jackson, who couldn’t be reached for comment, said the candidate’s petition papers state he would be “nominated as a candidate for the election of office” if successful on Feb. 24. That’s a problem because it is misleading, the complaint states.

“This potentially confuses the voter because they are led to believe Duncan would become a candidate for the next election and not the alderman,” the complaint said.

Duncan said his lawyer advised him not to comment on the allegations until his hearing, which was originally set for Tuesday but moved to Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 11:30 a.m.

Both Duncan and Percy said they do not know their objectors.

The city’s board of elections will decide on these two complaints as well as the dozens of others filed against other aldermanic candidates – including six in the 29th Ward – between January and February.

But those who don’t face objections don’t get off that easy.

The board is also charged with sifting through the paperwork filed by every potential candidate to confirm they followed basic rules, including having the required number of signatures and having paginated sheets. One broken rule can cost someone his or her candidacy.

No one who filed their petitions to run in 2011 was knocked off the ballot for the 37th Ward before the election, the board of elections website shows.

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