By Mike Nolan Daily Southtown | Jan 10

Decisions on challenges to nominating petitions that could ultimately alter the look of April 6 election ballots in Blue Island and Markham have been put off due to procedural matters.

Electoral boards in both cities met to consider objections to petitions of some mayoral candidates, with Blue Island’s board convening Friday morning and Markham’s on Thursday evening.

Challenges in Blue Island were made to petitions filed by incumbent Mayor Domingo Vargas and one of his challengers, city clerk Randy Heuser.

Objections have been filed seeking to remove Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas from the ballot.
Objections have been filed seeking to remove Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas from the ballot. (Ted Slowik / Daily Southtown)

Ald. Fred Bilotto is also running for mayor, but his petitions are not being challenged. He and Heuser are each running with a slate including candidates for clerk and alderman. Vargas, seeking a third term, is running as an independent.

Attorneys representing objectors and candidates in the Blue Island contest sought, and received, more time to file additional paperwork, with the electoral board scheduled to reconvene Jan. 19.

Challenges to Vargas’ petitions allege that some signatures are forgeries, others are people not registered to vote and some people signed petitions more than once.

Hearing those objections will require a review of voter records by the Cook County clerk’s office, although no date for that examination has been set, said Cary Horvath, Blue Island’s city attorney who was advising the electoral board.

Objections to Heuser’s petitions allege that because he notarized some of the petitions, and that he is also the candidate, those signatures should be declared invalid, and that the number of signatures fall below the required threshold, according to a copy of the file.

Objections have been filed to petitions of three challengers seeking to unseat Markham Mayor Roger Agpawa.
Objections have been filed to petitions of three challengers seeking to unseat Markham Mayor Roger Agpawa. (Ted Slowik / Daily Southtown)

In Markham, first-term Mayor Roger Agpawa faces three challengers, all of whom face challenges to their petitions.

Agpawa was elected in 2017 but was unable to take office for 18 months while he fought to resolve issues about his eligibility because of a 1999 federal felony conviction.

Agpawa is running as a Democrat and three challengers running as independents are City Clerk Jennifer Coles, Perry Browley and Kenneth “Mojo” Muldrow Jr. In 2017, Browley was a mayoral candidate on the ballot and Muldrow ran as a write-in candidate.

Among objections against the three challengers are petitions signatures from people who aren’t registered voters or who live outside of Markham, or that some people signed petitions more than once.

An objection filed to Muldrow’s petitions allege they “demonstrate a pattern of fraud and disregard” to the state’s election code and contain a “high percentage” of signatures from people either not registered or who had signed his petitions more than once.

An objection to Browley’s papers allege that he didn’t gather enough signatures and that some of signatories didn’t give complete addresses.

The electoral board continued the hearings on objections to Wednesday.

Generally, each municipality’s electoral board is comprised of the mayor, village or city clerk and the most senior member of the village board or city council.

In both Blue Island and Markham, however, because the mayor and clerk are either the subject of objections or would otherwise have a vested interest in the outcome of the electoral board’s ruling, others were appointed to serve in their place.

In Markham, attorney Thomas Jaconetty was appointed by the chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court to sit on the panel alongside 3rd Ward Ald. Rondal Jones and 4th Ward Ald. William Barron.

Generally advised by an attorney, electoral boards are quasi-judicial bodies that, during the weeks leading up to an election, are asked to weigh in on errors such as a candidate not having enough signatures on their petitions, or signatures of people who are not registered voters.

In some cases, whether someone stays on the ballot has hinged on minutia such as how individual signature pages have been bound together, and decisions by municipal electoral boards often end up being heard in Cook County Circuit Court and at the appellate level.

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