Forest Parkers waiting for a decision on a challenged petition that would give residents a chance to vote for or against video gambling in the November election will have to wait longer.
The Forest Park Electoral Board re-convened Wednesday, Aug. 31, to hear arguments about challenged petition signatures that potentially left the supporters of the proposed referendum short of the signatures needed get on the November ballot.
But in a three-hour meeting the board exclusively discussed a different issue – what is the accurate number of voters to be considered when determining the number of signatures needed to get a referendum on the ballot in the first place.
According to state law, petition signatures must equal at least 25 percent of the registered voters in the most recently held election – that would be last March’s primary.
Attorney Adam Lasker, representing Patrick Jacknow and Aubrey Jacknow, who have championed the referendum to give voters the chance to decide on video gambling, argued that the office of Cook County Clerk David Orr released to them a certified document stating that the number was 8,736, as of March 17. That, however, does not include inactive voters.
But Burt Odelson, attorney for the opponents of the referendum, primarily bar owners in Forest Park who support video gambling, argued that Orr’s office provided him with a total of 10,168 voters, as of Aug. 11. That includes 919 inactive voters.
The number provided by Odelson, however, was not certified by Orr’s office, prompting Lasker to argue that it was “not trustworthy evidence.”
The conflicting numbers left members of the electoral board uncertain on how to resolve the issue. Lasker told the local officials to make the best decision they could because the matter was, in his opinion, certain to be appealed, possibly at multiple court levels.
Part of the complex debate had to do with definitions of two classifications of voters – active and inactive. Inactive voters are those who have not voted in the last two federal elections or responded to requests from the Cook County Clerk’s Office on whether they are still living in the location where they originally registered.
Odelson cited case law from Maryland in an effort to show that having lists of active and inactive voters creates second class citizens and is unconstitutional.
But Lasker argued that the Maryland case dealt with petitions to get candidates on the ballot, rather than the number of voters counted to determine how many signatures are needed to get a referendum on the ballot. He argued that not including inactive voters – some of whom are likely dead or moved to a different voting district – when determining the petition signature count does not disenfranchise them, but blocking a referendum by including them in the 25 percent calculus would disenfranchise voters who signed the petition.
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone, chair of the local electoral board, expressed his discomfort with the conflicting numbers from Orr’s office, and the electoral board agreed to allow both lawyers to subpoena two individuals – all four of which will come from Orr’s office, including Orr – to clarify which number is correct.
The electoral board will convene again at Forest Park Village Hall on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. to hear their testimony.
Commissioner Tom Mannix and Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz are the two additional members of the electoral board.