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Fed. Judge OK's Election Dirty Tricks if Voters Know and Don't Care

polling place in RIDGELAND, MS - NOVEMBER 27: A voter casts his ballot at a polling place at Highland Colony Baptist Church, November 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Voters in Mississippi head to the polls for today's special runoff election, where Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Mike Espy is running in a close race with appointed Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
By Andrew Leonatti on September 04, 2019

When it comes to elections and corruption in Illinois, the jokes write themselves. “Vote early, vote often” is the most famous. Most Land of Lincoln residents would approve of the state taking a break from being the butt of the rest of the nation’s jokes for a while.

But no such luck. A U.S. District Judge decided last week that dirty tricks by rival campaigns are in fact OK if voters know about them. And besides, he said, it didn’t change the result of the race in question. 

The Setup

Known as “the Velvet Hammer,” Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has a legendary reputation for his ruthlessness and ingenuity in securing the results he wants every time.

But facing an onslaught of negative press coverage and voter fatigue, he apparently was nervous about the challenge Jason Gonzales posed to his South Chicago seat in the 2016 election cycle.

According to a lawsuit filed by Gonzales, associates of Madigan convinced two candidates to also enter the primary race, in an attempt to dilute Gonzales’ share of the vote. According to the lawsuit, those two candidates, who both had Latino names, did not actively campaign after getting into the race.

Madigan prevailed in the primary with 65% of the vote.

The Hook

After the case was dismissed the first time, Gonzales amended his complaint, which ensnared a large handful of Chicago’s political circus’s most colorful characters. Madigan – true to form – gave an evasive deposition.

In an, um, interesting ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly dismissed the case, essentially saying that the burden is on voters to punish dirty tricks such as the one in the lawsuit – and they chose not to.

Kennelly wrote that a “reasonable” jury would conclude that Madigan was involved in the sham candidate recruitment effort. However, “this publicity placed the alleged misconduct squarely within the political realm, enabling voters to rebuke Madigan by electing his challenger. Instead, Madigan prevailed by a substantial margin.”

A stunned Gonzales said that his lawyers were struggling to explain to him “how my actions in exposing the fraud caused it to not be fraud.” His lawyers announced that Gonzales would appeal.

The Sting

While the result will make many Illinois voters shake their heads at just another example of how Madigan is essentially unstoppable, Kennelly gave them the key to doing something about it.

Yes, dear voter, Kennelly essentially said that if you are so disgusted by actions such as this, you have to get out to vote, and you need to vote the bum out. We won’t hold our breath.

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