Elections

Disabled man’s lawyer calls Madison County candidate’s campaign video a ‘cruel violation’

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If you waited until Election Day to cast your ballot, here are the important things you need to know.

Michael Littleton has voted in the past five elections and he cast his ballot in this year’s midterm elections.

But a video alleging Littleton, who is disabled and lives at facility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, was featured in a video for Steve Adler, the Republican candidate for County Clerk, who alleged his opponent Democrat Debbie Ming Mendoza was committing vote fraud by allowing Littleton to cast a ballot.

Patricia Murphy, the lawyer for Littleton’s guardian Cathy Wahl, sent a letter to Adler, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons and Littleton’s niece Becky Unnerstall, who is also featured in the video. She wants the video taken down from Adler’s Facebook campaign site.

“Mr. Adler’s recent political ad featuring Mr. Littleton is an egregious violation of Mr. Littleton’s right to privacy and exploitation of a severely disabled adult for a political purpose,” Murphy wrote.

Adler said Tuesday that he had not seen a copy of Murphy’s letter, but said: “Vote fraud happens here in Madison County. It happens right under our noses. And when it happens the county clerk looks the other way.”

Mendoza, the incumbent Madison County Clerk, said Tuesday that as a part of her election duties, she receives a list of registered voters who reside in Madison County nursing facilities from the Illinois State Board of Elections. She then contacts the facility’s administrator and asks which of the residents would like to vote.

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A Democratic and Republican election judge then goes to the facility and helps each of those expressing interest cast a ballot. If the election judge gets there and the person changes their mind or doesn’t feel well, they don’t have to vote, Ming Mendoza said. She has no role in determining a voter’s mental or physical capacity to cast a ballot.

“I just follow the law,” Ming Mendoza said.

In the video, Adler appears and said what happened to Littleton is “not just an abuse of family trust, but an abuse of public trust.”

“My client will not suffer this cruel violation — it is immoral and Mrs. Wahl demands the political ad at issue be removed from further public dissemination,” Murphy wrote.

Gibbons received a copy of the letter on Monday.

“If the allegations in the letter prove true, Mr. Adler took advantage of one of our most vulnerable citizens solely for political gain,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons referred the matter to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office for investigation by their Elder Service Officers, who will coordinate with the Elder Abuse Unit from the State’s Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges are warranted, he said.

“It is the job of my office to make sure we protect the rights of victims, especially those who are the most vulnerable, from such potential criminal misconduct,” Gibbons said.

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