Deceased voters appear on petition

Petitioners can’t be located, non-existent addresses listed,

deceased appear as signatories

Petitions that were filed Jan. 18 concerning the question of consolidating Rockford and Winnebago County election offices, not only feature alleged dead people that signed the documents, but two home addresses listed by a person circulating the petitions don’t exist, according to county records.

The revelations come on the heels of allegations that were filed in court Jan. 24 by Rockford Board of Election Commissioners Suzanne C. McDonald, Russell L. Taylor and Ryan Brauns against Winnebago County Clerk Dave Johnson.

The court filings are the latest in an ongoing struggle between the two election offices to gain control of voter rolls and to manage area elections. When contacted late on Jan. 24, Johnson responded by saying he would withdraw the petitions in question. He also identified himself as being the initiator of the effort to put the question of consolidation on the ballot.

Johnson added that it was “unfortunate” that two persons allegedly circulated petitions that listed deceased individuals. The court documents identify Denise McAllister and Jeremy Harvel as the individuals who collected signatures that listed the allegedly deceased voters, Garrell Dilley and John F. Cassell, on their petitions. Johnson declined to answer detailed questions concerning how the petitioners became part of the effort to add signatures to the proposal.

Harvel listed his address on different pages of the petition as “2406 Broadway Apt F” and “2406 18th Ave.” The Rock River Times searched for both addresses in the neighborhoods where the residences should have been, if they existed. However, no such addresses could be found.

A search of county records for a list of all addresses with the number “2406” showed 26 streets in Winnebago County, which included the City of Rockford. However, there are no addresses for 2406 Broadway or 2406 18th Ave., as listed by Harvel.

The Rock River Times also tried to contact McAllister, whose listed phone number was not in service Jan. 24. A visit to the address revealed that the house was occupied. A male voice asked for identification through closed shades and a door. However, the occupant did not respond to a request to speak with McAllister, after complying with the occupant’s request for identification.

Although Johnson said he planned to withdraw the petition, Patrick W. Hayes, attorney for the Rockford Board of Election Commissioners and the law firm Guyer and Enichen, P. C., said the Rockford election commissioners are pursuing a “Petition For Rule To Show Cause” that alleged “Johnson was attempting to perpetrate fraud upon this court, or at least should have had the requisite knowledge that his filing were contemptuous.”

The document also alleged the petitions circulated by McAllister, Harvel and two other persons contained “obvious forgeries.” The two other individuals listed in the court documents could not be reached for comment by time of publication.

Neither Hayes nor Johnson said they were aware of any other past petition efforts that had similar irregularities. The question of how widespread bogus signatures and addresses were for other past petition efforts could not be researched in time for this article.

This is the second time within four months the question of consolidating the elections offices has been removed or withdrawn after initial efforts have been called into question. Last fall, the same issue was withdrawn after a notice of hearing was not published within the legally required time frame, which prompted a court challenge (see Jan. 12 article “Winnebago County voter registration rolls inflated”).

Whether similar irregularities exist with Johnson’s first petition effort also could not be researched by time of publication.

As to how Rockford election officials were able to quickly identify the deceased voters among the thousands of signatures, Hayes said most deceased voters are removed from Rockford’s voter roll within 60 days of the death of an individual, which allows officials to easily spot problems. According to Hayes, both the county and city election offices receive death notices from the Winnebago County Health Department, which is used by Rockford officials to purge voters from its rolls.

Asked if he was aware of similar irregularities with the first petition effort, Hayes responded by saying that he was not aware of anyone who had examined the other petitions.

See accompanying article “Candidate on ballot despite ‘incomplete petition’” on page A1.

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