Congressman Danny Davis must pay up or be booted from March ballot

December 9, 2011

(WBEZ/file)
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis said he will pay off his election board fines on Friday.

Politicians in Illinois risk being booted from the March election ballot if they don't pay off overdue fines. Among them: Congressman Danny Davis.

Davis is running for re-election to Congress, and also to be Chicago's 29th Ward Democratic committeeman. But before he can get on the ballot, Davis must clear up about $1,887 in fines owed to the Illinois State Election Board.

The fines, imposed on two of his committees - Citizens for Davis and Davis for Mayor-- were levied because campaign money disclosure reports were filed late or not at all. They are all at least two months overdue.

Davis knew about them, but explained in an interview Thursday that the congressional schedule has kept him too busy.

"I'm here [in Chicago] for two days, and - damn - I can't find time to go get a haircut," Davis said.

He will find the time to pay the fines on Friday, Davis said, using money from his campaign account.

"I think people should pay anything they owe," Davis said. "Hey, I've gotten a few traffic tickets in my lifetime. Not many, but if I got one, I'll pay it."

The election board last week sent a letter to local election authorities citing an Illinois law that was clarified at the beginning of this year.

"[E]lection authorities are barred from placing on the ballot the name of any candidate whose political committee has an unpaid civil penalty owed to the State Board of Elections," the letter said.

The board attached a spread sheet to the letter, listing about 150 candidate committees owing overdue fines totaling about $600,000 dollars. (A list on the board's website also includes fines owed by political action committees, which are not subject to the "ballot forfeiture" law.)

In the past two weeks, at least two Chicago aldermen, the 10th Ward's John Pope and the 28th Ward's Jason Ervin, paid off overdue fines. Like Davis, both have filed to run in the March election for Democratic ward committeeman.

Candidates are allowed to stay on the ballot if they appeal their fines. That happened in the case of state Sen. Kimberly Lightford of Maywood, who owed about $8,000. An election board official said Lightford was removed from the list because she filed a petition for review in the appellate court.