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33rd Ward Runoff Battle Continues Between Deb Mell And Tim Meegan

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 13, 2015 2:00PM

Aldermanic candidate Tim Meegan says that despite the affirmation by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners that incumbent 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell narrowly won the hotly contested race, he’s still fighting for a runoff. Initial results put Mell slightly short of the 50 percent plus one needed to win the seat outright— with 49.59 percent before absentee ballots arrived after election day. The Chicago Tribune reported last week that as those ballots were being counted, Mell was barely pushed out of the runoff zone with 50.17 percent of the vote.

A lawsuit filed last week by Meegan’s campaign demanding a full recount alleged voters from outside the ward cast ballots and that some people who weren’t registered voted. The Chicago Reader reports in one case, Meegan’s poll watchers said they found that a Logan Square restaurant doubling as a polling place and a pickup location for Mell’s signs.

The board’s ruling yesterday put Mell at 50.21 percent to Meegan’s 34.01 percent, just 17 votes above what she needs to keep her seat. But Meegan’s campaign argues that the Board did not count all of the votes cast. According to Nick Burt, a spokesperson for the campaign, the Board did not include some 200 instances where people over or under voted— by either not selecting a candidate or marking two.

“To avoid a runoff, a candidate must get 50% plus one of all votes cast, not just votes that were registered to particular candidates in one of the races,” said Burt. While most of the time, such distinctions would make little difference, but in a situation as close as the one in the 33rd Ward, they make or break the race.

Meegan’s lawsuit seeks an expedited schedule for a hearing in court before the April 7th runoff. On Tuesday, Mell told the Sun-Times she was “happy with the final tally” and her lawyers were working on the suit. In a statement released yesterday after the Board of Election Commissioners hearing, Meegan said:

"I am committed to a runoff election April 7th because I believe that's what the people of the 33rd Ward wanted when they went to the polls on Feb. 24th. I'm hopeful the court will validate their voice quickly."