Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Booted off East St. Louis Ballot, Mayor Alvin Parks Vows 'Ferocious' Write-In Campaign

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Booted off East St. Louis Ballot, Mayor Alvin Parks Vows 'Ferocious' Write-In Campaign

Article excerpt

EAST ST. LOUIS * This year, it's legal to vote twice in the East St. Louis mayoral election.

But only one of those votes will count provided all goes according to an election plan that got complicated when the Illinois Supreme Court booted Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. off the April 7 ballot. Justices said he lacked enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions.

In the same opinion Monday, the court also nullified any votes cast for Parks on early and absentee ballots that were distributed in February. That ruling initially raised the prospect that anyone who already voted for Parks would, in effect, be disenfranchised.

Further tangling the proceedings, Parks vowed Tuesday to continue campaigning.

"At this point, I am planning on mounting a ferocious write-in campaign," Parks said. "The people of East St. Louis who support me deserve to have their voices heard."

A state election official has declared that early voters are eligible to cast another ballot. But local election officials acknowledge that the situation could get complicated.

Back in December, one of Parks' opponents, Emeka Jackson-Hicks, challenged his petitions. After the city election board, St. Clair County Circuit Court and Illinois Court of Appeals all rejected her complaint, the Supreme Court voted 7-0 in her favor.

Parks, 53, mayor since 2007, seeks a third term. He needed 136 signatures on his petitions to get on the ballot and filed 171. But an election board attorney submitted evidence that at least 48 signatures were invalid, and 12 others may have been from people who weren't registered to vote at the time.

On Tuesday, Parks blamed a bureaucratic snafu. "I had more than enough signatures, but some of those who signed gave addresses that did not match up with the official addresses at the election board office," he said. "What you have is a really technical and bureaucratic way of eliminating people from being able to sign a petition."

Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who wrote the high court's opinion, acknowledged some "substantial compliance," but wrote, "A candidate either meets that minimum threshold or does not. There is no 'close enough.' "

Jackson-Hicks, 40, is a City Council member and daughter of state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis. She made a campaign issue out of her opposition to a proposal by Parks to allow nightclubs to remain open until 6 a.m.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who grew up in East St. Louis, endorsed Jackson-Hicks based partly on her stance against expanding nightclub hours. …

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