Railia supporters claim fraud in Cook County assessor race
In the Democratic primary for Cook County assessor, Andrea Railia is screaming foul after voters were told early on election day that any vote cast for her would not be counted in her race against incumbent Joe Berrios and fellow Democratic candidate Fritz Kaegi.
According to WBBM Radio, notices were placed at precincts in the city and in the suburbs erroneously alerting voters that Railia’s name had been effectively stripped from the ballot.
Railia’s attorney, Frank Avila, later told the radio station he found the error to be a case of “fraud, gross negligence and incompetence,” adding that he thinks the Department of Justice should be called in to investigate and a new election held.
In the days leading up to the primary, an appellate court ordered Railia’s name placed back on the ballot after she had been knocked off for fraudulent petitions following a challenge by Kaegi.
ABC News reported that as the March 20th events played out, Raila, a tax consultant by trade, blasted the Cook County and Chicago election boards for neglecting to make clear to election judges that she was back on the ballot.
"Why were these allowed to go out into 3,000 polling areas,” she told ABC of the notices. “Why did the Board of Elections, at 6 a.m., tell their judges to pass them out?”
Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen later acknowledged that the green notices were placed in election judge packets before the appellate court ruling and a pre-programmed text message was sent by accident. Election officials said they tried to fix the situation quickly.
"We took every effort we could to make sure the notices had stopped," Allen said.
Election board officials added the error was rectified as soon as they became aware of it, and Allen told WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" he doesn’t think the error was severe enough that a new, special election needs to be held.
The race for Cook County assessor, which is responsible for assessing the estimated market value of properties in a process largely responsible for determining tax bills, has been one of the state’s most colorful from the very beginning.
Berrios, who also serves as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, has come under increasing fire over his handling of the county's property tax assessment system, with a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica investigation concluding the system was structured in such a way that low-income property owners were paying higher taxes than far more affluent ones.
Throughout the campaign, Kaegi sought to take advantage of the mounting pressure Berrios faced and also frequently blasted him for having put family members on the state payroll.
Berrios countered by branding Kaegi a Democrat in name only.
Just the same, Kaegi had the endorsement of several of the city’s most progressive aldermen and a number of special-interest groups.