East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks on Wednesday said taking votes away that already have been cast for him amounted to “disenfranchisement” of minority voters.
Parks held a press conference later outside the city’s Democratic headquarters to say that the unanimous Illinois Supreme Court decision on Monday that he had failed to obtain the minimum number of signatures on his candidacy petitions would not derail his candidacy, and that he was more determined than ever to win as a write-in candidate.
But, he said that taking away the votes of people who had already cast absentee and early votes for him amounted to disenfranchisement of voters and denial of choice. He brought up Selma and the Voting Rights Act as he spoke against the court’s decision.
“It’s 50 years past Selma and yet we still have issues with having freedom of choice in our elections,” Parks said. “It’s 50 years past Selma and yet we still have oppressors trying to take over our communities. It’s 150 years past slavery and yet we still have slavery relationships being played out right here in East St. Louis, the city of champions.”
Apostle Byron Cooper said now is not the time for a leadership change in East St. Louis. He said Parks may be off the ballot, “but he is not out of your hearts.
“We refused to be defeated. We refuse to be conquered,” Cooper said.
Parks, clearly in disagreement with the Illinois Supreme Court ruling said it looks like “someone wants to pick the leader of East St. Louis. “We’re researching our legal options to right the injustice of the vote counting,” he said.
Parks said that he had more than enough signatures on his candidacy petitions. However, he said some of the residents signed using their current addresses and not where they were registered to vote due to them not updating their registration records.
“They were registered voters of East St. Louis just not registered at their signed addresses, a technicality,” Parks said.
“We’re planning to launch a very effective write-in campaign to win back the mayor’s seat. I am more motivated than ever,” Parks said.
“Please stand with me. Vote for me as a write in.”
The race for mayor is April 7. On the ballot will be mayoral candidate Emeka Jackson-Hicks, who filed the challenge to Parks’ candidacy, and candidate Courtney Hoffman.
Kandrise Mosby, executive director of East St. Louis Board of Elections, said 18,000 new ballots are being printed as a result of the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling. The cost to print new ballots is between $5,400 and $5,800, according to Mosby.
“The (new) ballots will be mailed to everyone who applied for an absentee ballot,” Mosby said.
She explained anybody who voted via an absentee ballot previously and who does not return the new ballot will have their old ballot counted. However, a vote on the old ballot for Parks will not count.
Anyone who wishes to vote for Parks will have to do so as a write-in, Mosby said.