Judge dismisses Calloway’s election challenge; Hairston’s victory is verified

William Calloway and his attorney Frank Avila speak to Calloway’s supporters after his lawsuit to overturn the results of the 5th Ward Aldermanic election was dismissed by Judge LaGuina Clay-Herron. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

Staff writer

Cook County Circuit Court Judge LaGuina Clay-Herron today dismissed activist William Calloway’s bid to overturn the results of the April 2 election for alderman of the 5th Ward.

The judge’s decision verified incumbent Ald. Leslie Hairston’s narrow, 176-vote margin of victory for her fourth term.

The judge ruled that missing Election Day precinct certifications were not sufficiently egregious to require a recount and that Calloway had not produced evidence of fraud.

Frank Avila, Calloway’s attorney, argued that the vote could not have been considered valid in four precincts where judges did not complete a Form 80 certification on Election Day, after the polls closed. A discovery recount in 10 of the 5th Ward’s precincts uncovered no compelling evidence that could change the election’s outcome.

Adam Lasker, the Elections Board’s attorney, said the Board fixes any errors that arise during ballot counting. He said that missing Form 80 certifications were one of many possible and inevitable errors that happen every Election Day in the Board’s 1,500 polling places. Furthermore, precinct judges do not handle absentee or vote-by-mail ballots.

Avila said that the possibility of fraud due to a lack of Form 80 certifications means that there should be more discovery to see if there is a need for a new election in the four precincts. He specifically wanted to depose election judges and mentioned the need for a new election to be held in the four precincts.

Clay-Herron said that Form 80s were directive, not mandatory, and that the Illinois Supreme Court had ruled a challenge could not stand without specific evidence of fraud, which Calloway did not provide.

Avila said the 5th Ward runoff ballots could not be re-tabulated without Form 80 certifications. Elections Board spokesman Jim Allen reiterated that the Board investigates and rectifies discrepancies that arise in ballot-counting in full view of the campaigns and public during the canvass of returns.

After the hearing, Avila said he did not know if Calloway would appeal the ruling. “We haven’t decided our path yet, but we are considering all options. We’re disappointed by the result. We believe that it’s clear that the provisions that we cite are mandatory — not discretionary, not directory.”

After Avila spoke, Calloway said he felt good, though he was disappointed by Clay-Herron’s decision, and that he would take his challenge to the state appellate court.

Hairston was sworn in with the rest of the City Council aldermen in May. Calloway had filed for a temporary restraining order to block her from taking the oath of office, though the law holds that Hairston would have remained in office until a successor was duly named, but Clay-Herron rejected that request.

Herald freelancer Marc Monaghan contributed.