Losing Candidates Still Hopeful They Can Overturn Election Results
Dan Sodaro and Linda Flanagan-Vahl, who lost hotly contested races in the April 5 election, pursue discovery recounts.
The losing candidates in two close Oak Lawn races traveled to a West Side warehouse for a discovery recount of votes cast in the April 5 election. Both are still holding out hope that they can overturn their respective elections.
Dan Sodaro, who ran as a write-in candidate after getting bumped off the ballot, remains 11 votes behind longtime incumbent Bob Streit in the Oak Lawn Village Board trustee race.
Losing candidates who fall within 95 percent of the winning number of votes can request a discovery recount in 25 percent of a municipality’s precincts. Sodaro was allowed a partial recount of two precincts out the 3rd District’s eight; Vahl requested a partial recount of four precincts out of D218’s 6th sub-district. Cook County charges a $10 fee per precinct for a discovery recount.
During a discovery recount, petitioning or losing candidates can examine all of the precinct materials available from election day. Election materials for Cook County are kept in a warehouse on Chicago’s West Side, under the auspices of Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office.
The candidate and his or her attorneys or representatives are allowed to examine the paper trail from touch-screen receipts and watch as all paper ballots are fed through the scanner and re-tabulated. Absentee and provisional ballots are also available for examination.
“A discovery recount is really for the benefit of petitioning (losing) candidates,” Cook County Clerk spokeswoman Courtney Greve said. “It’s up to that person to determine if they have gathered enough information to seek a recount. We basically show them everything.”
Should candidates pursue a full recount, they need to file a lawsuit or “petition for election contest” in Cook County Circuit Court. After that, it’s up to a judge to decide whether petitioning candidates have a case for a full recount.
Vahl’s attorney Jim Nally, who is also representing Streit, said he and his client are still assessing the numbers from last Thursday's recount. One the precincts he and Vahl are looking at is the 61st precinct at Fire House No. 1 in Chicago Ridge. The 61st precinct was one of the last precincts to come through on election night after experiencing technical issues with the touch-screen machines.
Nally said there didn’t appear to be any signs of tampering.
“In any election, mistakes are made,” Nally said. “It’s not a result of any fraud but just part of the process.”
Nally said they also looked at ballots, ballot applications and affidavits.
“There’s quite a bit of material there,” he said. “There’s lots of data and we’re still evaluating it.”
Pratl won his third term on the D218 school board but has not been seen at a board meeting since April 11. Inside sources in the district told Patch that Pratl was asked to resign from the board. The Chicago Ridge resident’s photo has disappeared from among the D218 board members on the district’s website.
District officials would not comment on whether or not Pratl resigned. Pratl has not returned numerous phone calls and email asking him to confirm if he was asked to resign from the school board or if he is still on the board.
Sodaro and his attorney, Richard Means, met with Cook County election officials on Monday for the discovery recount. Streit and his attorney, Nally, also were on hand.
The village board trustee gained three votes during a ballot canvassing last month, putting him 11 ahead of Sodaro. Streit took his sixth oath of office at the Oak Lawn Village Board meeting on Tuesday.
“The standard is that you would have to find enough evidence in those two precincts altering the outcome of the election,” Streit said. “We all saw the same evidence and it doesn’t exist.”
Ballots in Oak Lawn’s 35th precinct at Sward Elementary School, where some voters reside on Harnew Road in the 3rd District, received 5th District ballots because of a mapping error. The county clerk’s office said that only two voters were impacted after errors reportedly appeared on 56 ballots.
Sodaro’s camp also counted ballots from the 46th precinct at the Johnson-Phelps VFW polling place. Sodaro said he chose that precinct because it appeared to have the highest number of under-votes.
“I’m pretty positive,” Sodaro said. “We found some of the stuff we were looking for. We came out with a lot of information.”
Among the discoveries were several paper ballots on which Sodaro’s name was written in as a write-in candidate, but voters had failed to fill in the connecting arrow to Sodaro’s name.
Streit said there was no significant number of those ballots where voters neglected to draw in an arrow.
“There were five or six and those were counted for him,” Streit said. “Obviously, we would object to those. There would be a reduction in (Sodaro’s) total if we went to a hearing.”
There were also indications that election judges at Sward School had corrected ballots for residents in 3rd District that received ballots for the 5th District trustee race.
“(The ballot mixup) doesn’t appear widespread,” Sodaro said. “The judges working the precinct properly corrected them. When they began fixing them is tough to say. Some were fixed and some weren’t.”
While some of his questions were answered, Sodaro said the discovery recount raised new questions.
“We’re still going over everything,” Sodaro added. “We walked out with a lot of information.”
Nally said the 11-vote difference in Oak Lawn’s 3rd District was open to interpretation.
“All the evidence shows that Streit is still ahead,” Nally said. “Our margin is at least what it was on election night and may have gained some.”
Both Sodaro and Vahl have until the end of the month to decide whether to file lawsuits contesting their elections.