Dispute over early voting in Chicago Heights

March 24, 2011 4:33:49 PM PDT
Supporters of one candidate in the race for Chicago Heights mayor say some voters are being intimidated.

After some voting irregularities in the south suburb, members of the Chicago Heights Area Ministerial Council requested that early voting be stopped at the City Hall site.

The busiest early voting site in Cook County is in Wilmette. The second busiest site is in Chicago Heights.

Since early voting started in Chicago Heights hundreds have cast ballots.

"Very smooth in and out, just the way it's supposed to be," said Anita Lynn Petrovic, early voter who cast the 1400th vote Thursday.

Some say, however, that voting has not been so easy for other voters.

"Whoever wins, we want them to win fair and square and that none of these tactics are successful in determining the outcome of this election," said Rev. Lawrence Blackful, Chicago Heights Area Ministerial Council, at a press conference.

Attendees of the press conference allege city employees are being intimidated as they cast votes.

Among those calling for an end to early voting in Chicago Heights is Joe Faso who is a candidate for mayor.

"This is almost an embarrassment that we have to go through this and involve the press in a local election," said Faso.

ABC7 found the other candidate for mayor campaigning. David Gonzalez says the allegations are politically motivated and that his supporters appreciate the convenience of early voting.

"Our message is getting clear to them that they are coming out there. They're not waiting until April 5th. They're getting out to early voting," said Gonzalez.

Any registered Cook County voter can vote at any early voting site.

Courtney Greve, spokesperson for the Cook County Clerk's Office, says on the first day of early voting some did attempt to tamper with the voting process in Chicago Heights. She says election judges reported the problems and their actions. Greve also says those not properly registered were turned away, those campaigning were forced back to the 100-foot mark and the office has confirmed the authenticity of most of the votes already cast.

"We have no intention of closing this early voting site at this time. We think there has been ample oversight of the polling place and that our election judges have been doing exactly what they are trained to do," Greve told ABC7.

The folks who caused the ruckus were not from Chicago Heights. Officials says they were from Ford Heights.

The clerk's office has added extra staffers to the Chicago Heights site and will have more staffers and law enforcement at election day sites on April 5.