Wilson questions Emanuel vote-by-mail campaign

Friday, January 23, 2015
Wilson questions Emanuel letter campaign
Mayoral race opponent Willie Wilson is questioning a letter campaign by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel's effort asking Chicagoans to vote-by-mail in the upcoming city election is under fire from one of his opponents, Willie Wilson.

Wilson fears the incumbent might try to manipulate the vote, or suppress it.

"It has the look that it's an official document," said Frank Avila, Wilson's lawyer.

Avila raised questions about the letter, signed by Secretary of State Jesse White, an Emanuel supporter. It encourages people to vote-by-mail, to complete the enclosed official application to do so, and to mail the completed form to a post office box owned by the mayor's re-election campaign.

"Why doesn't this say send your absentee ballot application to 69 West Washington, the 6th floor, the Chicago Board of Elections?" Avila said. "We don't know if the person is sorting them. We don't know where they're going. There's no accountability and there's no transparency."

The mayor, endorsed Thursday by the firefighters union, said the vote-by-mail effort is standard campaign practice.

"This is about encouraging people to vote and participate and reminding them they don't have to wait for Election Day, they can vote by mail," Emanuel said.

"A mayor today, doing what he's doing, is an outright shame," Wilson said.

A Secretary of State's spokesman confirmed Jesse White authored the letter and wrote: "I can't imagine anything would be done to tamper with people's voting rights."

While the Chicago Board of Elections recommends the vote-by-mail application be sent directly to its office, a spokesman there said sending it to a campaign or political party - as long as it is eventually sent to the board - is legal.

But Wilson, not so sure that all applications will make it downtown, is worried.

"This mayor, still today, is trying to disenfranchise us," Wilson said.

Mayor Emanuel said Barack Obama used the same tactic during his campaigns for president, and Board of Elections Spokesman Jim Allen said that both Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner solicited vote-by-mail applications transferred through their offices.

So far, we haven't heard of this process being abused, but the worry is that there could be some abuse in the future.