East St. Louis Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr. said Tuesday the state Supreme Court’s removal of his name from the ballot for the upcoming election has left him even more determined to win.
“That just makes me even more motivated to go out and win the election,” said Parks, who plans to continue his campaign as a write-in candidate. “My team and I are ready for the challenge.”
Meantime, the East St. Louis Board of Elections Commissioners is trying to figure out how to handle the issue of absentee ballots that have already been turned in by voters. About 1,530 absentee ballots already have been received by the election board. The election board’s executive director, Kandrise Mosby, said she received the court’s order on Tuesday morning and was reviewing it.
“We’re in the process of trying to get this worked out. We’re following the court’s order,” Mosby said.
Parks, who has been mayor since 2007, said he’s continuing his political campaign, dubbed “The Turnaround Continued.”
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Parks’ name is to be removed from the April 7 ballot because he did not collect enough signatures from registered voters on his nominating petitions.
Parks, who is seeking his third term as mayor, still can run as a write-in candidate, but the court’s ruling states that his name is to be removed from the ballot. Also, the order states that if the election board received any absentee ballots prior to the removal of Parks’ name, the election board must disregard any votes cast for Parks on those ballots.
Mosby said she has contacted the vendor that prints the ballots. She said replacement ballots without Parks’ name should arrive sometime next week.
The question, however, is getting new ballots to the voters who have already received absentee ballots. Election officials said that should be a fairly simple process for the roughly 3,270 people who received an absentee ballot by mail, but it might be a more difficult task in the case of the roughly 155 voters who made in-person requests for absentee ballots. For the mailed ballots, a replacement ballot can simply be mailed.
Ken Menzel, an attorney for the state election board, said: “My understanding is that they’re looking at how best to give people the opportunity to cast their vote on the corrected ballot, once it arrives. They’ll have to decide how they’ll address the people who came in in-person.”
Parks said he shouldn’t lose votes that have already been cast for him on absentee ballots.
“You can’t disenfranchise people who’ve already voted or who have ballots in their hands,” Parks said. “Every absentee ballot that’s been cast for Alvin Parks should count unless you start over with everyone else, too.”
He added: “That’s crazy. That’s called vote-stealing. I don’t care where the order came from.”
The court determined that Parks submitted only 123 valid petition signatures, but needed a minimum of 136 under a formula set by state law. The East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners said that Parks, while falling short on signatures, essentially followed the spirit of the law, and the St. Clair County Circuit Court and 5th District Appellate Court agreed.
Parks said he can live with having to run as a write-in candidate, but votes already cast shouldn’t be thrown out.
“That’s the oppressor fully at work. With all the boil-over we’ve had with situations like Ferguson, and here’s a situation where you’re going to take votes away,” Parks said. “Black lives matter. Black votes matter. All lives matter.”
The other candidates for mayor are challengers Emeka Jackson-Hicks, who sought the court ruling, and Courtney Hoffman.
Jackson-Hicks, who has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, has said the court’s ruling was proper because “everyone has to follow the law, including me, and anyone else who wants to run for an elected office.”
Hoffman also said the court’s ruling is proper, and that it “puts East St. Louis’ political machine in its place.”
Hoffman added: “Every one of us had to follow the law in filling out our nominating petitions. So, the mayor nor the political machine are any different.”
Parks said he’s not concerned about Durbin’s endorsement of Jackson-Hicks.
“The endorsement I’m concerned with is from the people of East St. Louis — not somebody who flew in from Washington, D.C.,” Parks said.
He added: “Our people are going to go out and pull people out of their doors to vote, and we’re going to claim victory on April 7. I’m looking forward to being on the ballot as a write-in, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Matt Hawkins, secretary of Civic Alliance, a citizen group in East St. Louis, said the ruling is proper.
“What’s crazy is a sitting mayor not being able to get enough signatures to remain on the ballot,” Hawkins said. “It’s pretty straight-forward.”
East St. Louis resident Dorothy Joshway said the East St. Louis Board of Elections and the circuit court should have reached the same conclusion as the Supreme Court.
“The citizens of East St. Louis have been disenfranchised for the last 20 years by these two entities,” Joshway said. “Everyone was allowed to remain on the ballot four years ago. They have been doing wrong and not following the law for so long, they now think wrong is right.”