By Mark Wachtler
August 22, 2014. Oak Park, IL. (ONN) Illinois Republicans went way too far in their desperate attempt to keep the Illinois Libertarian Party off the November ballot. Imagine your doorbell rings and two giant, threatening thugs with guns tell you you’ve committed a crime by signing the Libertarian Party’s ballot access petition. They then force you against your will to sign a document recanting your original petition signature. It happened across Illinois and it’s a Class 4 felony. Illinois Republicans may go to prison. And they may just lose what was going to be a landslide General Election over it.
Illinois Libertarian volunteers rushed to the state capitol to defend their ballot access petitions. Image courtesy of DuPageLibertarians.org.
Is democracy dead in Illinois?
It’s bad enough that in Illinois, Republican and Democratic Party Congressional candidates need to submit only 300 and 500 petition signatures respectively to appear on the ballot. Independents, Libertarians, Greens and all others running for the same office must submit an average of 20,000 signatures. This election, opposition parties needed to submit 25,000 valid signatures to get their candidate slates on the November ballot.
The Libertarians, Greens and Constitution Party all did. The Republicans kicked the Constitution Party off the coming ballot. The Democrats, in the form of the elected Cook County Recorder of Deeds, kicked the Greens off. But having collected and submitted 42,986 signatures, the Illinois Libertarians made it nearly impossible for state Republicans to knock them off. That’s why they’ve been sending armed thugs with guns to the homes of those who signed the LP’s petitions, terrorizing them into signing additional documents recanting their original signature.
Over the past two weeks, election officials, Republican Party operatives, and Libertarian Party supporters have been engaged in an effort to analyze every one of the LP’s 43k signatures, with the GOP challenging every signature they could and the LP’s volunteers steadfastly defending their validity. By the end of the process last week, the Republicans officially challenged 23,667 Libertarian signatures. But BOE officials only agreed with 12,789 of those challenges, leaving the Illinois Libertarians with 30,197 - 5,197 more than the 25k needed. The Libertarians had won their right to participate in the coming 2014 General Election, or so they thought.
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The fight goes on
The Libertarian Party of Illinois should have won their right to have their candidates on the ballot. But the above process is only the preliminary procedure. Board of Elections hearing officers carried out the process to this point, and they’ve officially recommended that the LP’s candidates be included on the November ballot. But it’s up to the full Board to make the final decision. That decision is scheduled to be announced this morning at the state capitol. But even if the Libertarians are victorious, don’t expect this story to go away. Americans from all political walks of life are outraged at the IL GOP’s use of guns and terror, with the Illinois Governor calling for a criminal investigation.
Over the past week, Republican operatives have been submitting signed affidavits to the Board of Elections, all of which include Libertarian petition signers allegedly claiming they didn’t remember signing the LP’s ballot access petition. The Illinois GOP was attempting to influence the full Board in the week before they would make their final decision.
Widespread stories of armed intimidation
With the typical corporate media blackout in place of opposition parties and their candidates, it wasn’t until yesterday that the independent-leaning Chicago Sun Times finally published the story under the title, ‘Under the Gun in Petition Challenge’.
‘A couple of months after Julieus Hooks signed a political party’s nominating petitions, a man with a gun walked up to Hooks as he left his home in Oak Park,’ the Sun Times article begins, ‘The man said he was a private investigator. He told Hooks the petition that he had signed was fraudulent and asked him to sign something. Hooks hastily agreed to sign the paper. “I did not have time to fully review this document because the man with the gun instructed me to sign it, and I was afraid of him and what he may do to me if I refused,” Hooks says.’
The Sun Times tracked down the woman who circulated the Libertarian Party ballot access petition Julieus Hooks had signed back in May. That petition was circulated by Sarah Dart. When asked by the newspaper, Dart told a similar story of armed Republicans coming to her home and terrorizing her. According to the publication, ‘Dart says a private investigator named Carlos Rodriguez contacted her, asking about a missing girl who knew someone she supposedly knew. She believes the story about the missing girl was a ruse.’
Believing there was a missing young girl whose life was at stake, Dart met with Rodriguez. She was caught completely by surprise when he confronted her with a stack of her LP petitions and a gun. He demanded she sign an affidavit saying the signatures were obtained fraudulently. But Sarah Dart refused even though she admits she was terrified by this lying, armed, threatening man. According to the business card Rodriguez gave Dart, he works for Morrison Security in Alsip, Illinois. The Sun Times report says the company’s owner is the Palos Township Republican leader, Sean Morrison.
Coordinated terror campaign
Showing that the above stories aren’t unique, once word had spread about the armed thugs showing up at the homes of voters who signed the Libertarian Party’s ballot access petitions, threatening and intimidating them into recanting their signatures, others began coming forward. One of them was a tough, stubborn, DuPage County Libertarian named Warren Bent.
The DuPage Libertarians’ website explains how a man with a gun showed up at Bent’s home last Sunday, insisting that the petition circulator was a fraud and that Mr. Bent had been victimized and must sign an affidavit recanting his original signature. Being an active Libertarian Party volunteer, Warren Bent turned the tables on the threatening armed man and demanded to know who hired him and who put him up to this terror campaign. Bent says the guy fled at that point.
Libertarians fight back
Over this past week, the Illinois Board of Elections has been hearing additional challenges to the Libertarian Party’s ballot access petitions based on the signed affidavits the Republicans were able to acquire using their armed terror campaign. In response, a handful of dedicated and determined Libertarians took the stand to defend the petitions they themselves circulated. One of those admirable individuals was Julie Fox, the Libertarian Party candidate for Illinois Comptroller. Another was DuPage County Chairman Brian Lambrecht.
Lambrecht explains, “These affidavits turned up at the State Board of Elections in front of a hearing officer. One was against me, which I personally testified against. A woman claimed she couldn’t remember me, after being confronted by someone at her door with a photo of me! For those of you who have never personally met me, I am not the kind of guy you easily forget. I even made this joke while testifying, eliciting many laughs from everyone in the room, and did exceptionally well defending my standing as a good, honest petitioner. In her report, the Hearing Officer stated that ‘the Objectors fail to meet their burden of proof in demonstrating any of their objections with regard to Mr. Lambrecht’ and found ‘Mr. Lambrecht’s testimony credible and therefore recommend that the objection regarding Mr. Lambrecht’s petition sheets be overruled.’ Damn straight.”
During the same proceedings, the Libertarian Party went on the offensive by calling witnesses of their own. One of those witnesses was a scared young girl who testified that she had been visited multiple times at her home by armed men who she said made her “frightened” each time. Lambrecht explains, “This girl, who was our second biggest signature collector in the state, was scared - but not scared enough. She knew the work she did was honest and legal and she refused to give in. So she testified on our behalf about the confrontations. That testimony helped our case.”
Illinois Republicans may go to prison
All the hard work, controversy and intimidation will come to a final conclusion at 10:30am today when the Illinois Board of Elections makes its final ruling on whether or not the Illinois Libertarian Party candidates can participate in the November General Election. Regardless of how the Board rules, this episode is nowhere near over. The call for criminal charges against the Illinois Republican Party and its armed thugs is growing louder by the second.
Those calls are coming from Libertarians, Greens, independents, Democrats, mainstream news outlets like the Chicago Sun Times, and political publications like Capitol Fax. The latter reported yesterday that the Illinois Republicans’ tactics were probably Class 4 felonies. They reprinted the Illinois state law writing, ‘Sec. 29-4. Prevention of voting or candidate support. Any person who, by force, intimidation, threat, deception or forgery, knowingly prevents any other person from (a) registering to vote, or (b) lawfully voting, supporting or opposing the nomination or election of any person for public office or any public question voted upon at any election, shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.’
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn released a statement yesterday demanding a criminal investigation. As quoted by Capitol Fax, Quinn said, “We are deeply disturbed that the Rauner forces are intimidating people with weapons. Sending armed investigators to people’s homes in the name of politics is not okay in Illinois nor anywhere else. Voter intimidation has no place in our state, particularly with guns. This is a serious matter and it should be investigated by the State Board of Elections, Cook County State’s Attorney, and the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.”
Quinn is referring to his November opponent, Republican Gubernatorial candidate and billionaire Bruce Rauner. State Democrats are accusing the GOP candidate of being behind the extensive terror campaign, using the vast fortune he allegedly has hidden in seven Cayman Islands off-shore bank accounts to hire an army of gun-toting gangsters to take the Governor’s mansion by force.
The final decision by the Illinois Board of Elections on whether the Libertarian Party’s candidates can be included on the November ballot is scheduled to be announced this morning. The Board’s own preliminary investigators recommended they be approved. But the state Republicans have lobbied hard and ruthlessly over the past week to influence the full Board’s final decision. Regardless of the ruling, this probably isn’t the last we’ll hear about this scandal. Sending thugs with guns to the homes of people who signed ballot access petitions to terrorize them into recanting them is so far over the line, it literally threatens America’s entire democracy.
For more information on the Libertarian Party of Illinois, visit their website at LPIllinois.org.
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