Door knockers seek fraud in Illinois House race

April 30, 2012

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After an extraordinary search for fraud, the losing candidate in an Illinois House primary last month says he is considering a last-minute legal challenge to expose “corruption” tied to one of the state’s strongest political chiefs.

Monday is the last day for 39th District challenger Will Guzzardi to file a petition in Cook County Circuit Court to contest his March 20 loss to Rep. Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios (D-Chicago), who won by 125 votes, or 1.58 percent, of the 7,917 ballots cast.

The Guzzardi campaign alleges more than a half dozen Election Day irregularities, including a missing precinct voter list, a poll that opened nearly an hour late and inappropriate contact between Berrios operatives and voters. A discovery recount, Guzzardi adds, turned up too many ballot application signatures that don’t resemble what appears on voter registrations.

On Sunday night, Guzzardi sent out five volunteers to finish a door-to-door canvass to see if those voters cast the ballots. “We want to make sure that voters in this district [and] people around the city can have faith in the election so we can make sure that elections represent the will of the people,” Guzzardi said.

Berrios spokesman Manuel Galvan said her campaign would not comment unless Guzzardi made his complaints formal.

“Will has been making these allegations since the election but has never filed them with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, which is what you would do if you had allegations that you were able to substantiate,” Galvan said.

Board spokesman Jim Allen said door-to-door canvasses seeking signs of election fraud are rare. “I’ve never heard of it in my six years with the board,” Allen said.

The district includes parts of several Northwest Side neighborhoods, including Logan Square, Hermosa and Belmont Cragin. Berrios has represented it since 2003.

The Guzzardi campaign has aimed much of its criticism at her father, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, who is the county’s Democratic chair and the longtime committeeman of Chicago’s 31st Ward, which covers much of the district. Powerful committeemen often have some influence over the election judges in their ward.