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Kadner: Phony vote fraud mailing in Country Club Hills

Dwight Welch

Dwight Welch

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Updated: March 21, 2013 6:32AM



Over the weekend, residents of Country Club Hills received bogus letters from someone claiming to be a “supervisor of elections,” warning them of a vote-buying scheme in the upcoming city election.

On a letterhead that reads “Supervisor of Elections, Voter Fraud Investigative Unit,” the notice claims there is an “ongoing investigation that shows several residents in Country Club Hills may have received illegal compensation from city Mayor Dwight Welch or others acting on his behalf for what is being called ‘vote buying.’ ”

The letter is signed by Judith Summers, supervisor of elections.

But there is no Judith Summers associated with the Illinois State Board of Elections or the Cook County clerk’s office, which oversees all municipal elections in suburban Cook County.

“The letter is obviously a dirty campaign trick,” county Clerk David Orr said. “Since the election isn’t until April, this gives us plenty of time to tell people that there is no such person as Judith Summers connected to our office.

“And it gives us an opportunity to warn people that they should be aware that this sort of thing happens, and whenever they receive a communication about the election they should contact our office to verify that it is legitimate.

“Sometimes people just make all of this stuff up, and it’s very hard to know who is behind it or trace it back to its origin.”

Welch said he was aware of the letter, called it “completely phony” and said he had instructed the police department to notify the FBI and Illinois attorney general’s office.

The letter, dated Feb. 13, begins by saying, “On Jan. 10, 2013, my office was presented with a list of registered voters and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.

“I am writing to inform you that this investigation is now open and active and to convey some important information pertaining to you regarding voter election fraud.”

The letter cites Section 29-1 of the state “Election Code (10 ILCS 5/29)” that states, “Any person who knowingly gives, lends or promises to give or lend any money or other valuable consideration to any other person to influence such other person to vote or to register to vote or to influence such other person to vote for or against any candidate or public question to be voted upon at an election shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.”

The author contends that as supervisor of elections, she is overseeing the investigation and is responsible for submitting findings to the state elections board.

The letter emphasizes again that anyone who receives a gift, loan of money or employment in exchange for a vote can go to prison for one to three years.

Kathy Berg, of Country Club Hills, said the letter arrived in her mailbox Saturday in a stamped envelope.

“Several other people I know said they received the letter as well,” Berg said. “My first reaction was that it was addressed to Katherine Berg, and I have never used that name on anything. My driver’s license, my voter registration, everything reads Kathy. That’s the name I have used for 59 years.

“So I wondered if someone actually changed the name off of some list.”

Berg said she immediately doubted the validity of the mailing because the letterhead did not
contain the words “State of Illinois” or the name of any other government.

Berg said at least one of her friends indicated that she was intimidated by the letter, wondered if “she would be called as a witness” and questioned whether she should vote.

That is usually the intent of such letters — to intimidate people and keep them from voting.

“But to me it seemed silly and nonproductive,” Berg said.

“I don’t know who in this city could put together something
that well written and yet still be stupid enough to send it out,” she laughed. “I know that sounds contradictory, but it is well written, it sounds official, but it is a stupid idea.”

Berg said she had heard Country Club Hills police had been sent out to “confiscate” the letters.

Police Chief Mark Scott said several residents brought the letter to the police station, but he did not dispatch any officers to pick them up.

“People came in here wondering what this was all about,” Scott said.

He said the department was investigating the issue but had little hope of identifying who distributed the letter. The FBI and Illinois attorney general’s office would be notified of the mailing and asked to investigate, the chief said.

When I called the telephone numbers listed in the letter for the state elections board and Cook County state’s attorney’s office, people answering the phones said they were employed by those agencies.

“We are aware of the letter, and the matter is under investigation,” I was told by employees at both phone numbers. No one had ever heard of Judith Summers.

The address on the letterhead is 20 South Wacker, Suite 1350, Chicago. That is the address of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

A spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the office has received one complaint about the Country Club Hills letter and is investigating the matter.

“No one here had anything to do with issuing the letter or any contact with the person who did,” she said.

However, anyone who believes they have knowledge of voter fraud or illegal electioneering can contact the state’s attorney’s office at (773) 674-2715.

Hey, this isn’t the worst political dirty trick anyone has played, but it is more sophisticated than many I have seen.

This is the election season in the suburbs, and voters always should be aware that any mailing they receive could be a dirty trick.



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