Cook County: Voting fraud could pose threat in Illinois Senate race

A local government in Illinois is warning about potential voting fraud in the Chicago area, noting two election voters were convicted of such fraud just last spring.

The warning, from the director of elections for Cook County, Ill., raises the prospect that voter fraud could become a potential problem in the race and contradicts Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, who was dismissive of the issue at a recent debate.

Cook County includes Chicago and surrounding suburbs.

“This past spring, two election workers were prosecuted by the State’s Attorney General and convicted of vote fraud for violating voter privacy by supervising voters as they completed ballots,” a memo from Cook County’s director of elections, Jan Kralovee, says.

At an Oct. 19 debate, Giannoulias slammed his Republican opponent, Rep. Mark Kirk, for his “voter integrity” program that is intended to prevent voting fraud.

“There’s never been an accusation of fraud on the West and South side of Chicago … you’re trying to suppress the African-American vote,” Giannoulias said.

The Cook County memo warns election workers against supervising voters as they fill out absentee ballots.

“To avoid confusion and misdirected campaign efforts, here are pointers for you to pass along to your campaign workers,” the memo says.

The “pointers” include that “Voters must fill out the ballots themselves without obstruction or assistance.”

“OR, IF A VOTER NEEDS ASSISTANCE, the name of the assisting person must be written on the outside of the return envelope,” the memo says.

Giannoulias attacked Kirk for trying to “suppress” the minority vote after Kirk was secretly recorded discussing his “voter integrity” program and the recording was posted on YouTube in early October.

“I have now funded the largest voter integrity program … these are lawyers and others who will be deployed in key vulnerable districts … where the other side might be tempted to jigger the numbers somewhat.”

Besides the two convictions, accusations of voting fraud have long plagued the South and West sides of Chicago.

One example in 2002 was a group of dozens of senior citizens who applied for absentee ballots, only to find out that the man who helped them apply had already cast their votes.

Calling the incident “pure Cook County,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported that when the seniors asked the man what he was doing in casting their ballots, they were told: “Don’t worry, you’re voting Democratic.”