President Obama took time from his party fundraising duties in Chicago on Monday to vote early in the Illinois election. “I’m so glad I can early vote. It’s so exciting. I love voting,” he said.
But what Obama and his fellow Illinois Democrats love most is voting “the Chicago Way.” That involves bending every rule in the book, appointing compliant election judges, and looking the other way when some of Chicago s notorious voter fraud occurs behind the curtain.
This Chicago Tribune news story told the story in droll terms:
Obama’s visit to Chicago shined a spotlight on the early voting process. . . . State lawmakers enacted a series of one-time changes to make early voting easier for this election only, leading some critics to contend the move was made for political reasons tied to the hotly contested governor race between Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner. Among the changes, the two-week early voting period, which traditionally ends the Saturday before the Tuesday election, will this year continue through Sunday, Nov. 2, at some voting locations.
There are other changes. Two years ago, when he early voted in Chicago for his reelection, President Obama was happy to show the required photo ID. But people voting early this year will no longer have to show an ID. Voters will also be able to register to vote and cast a ballot on Election Day — what is known as same-day registration. That lax system has led to frequent reports of fraud and abuse in neighboring Wisconsin, richly detailed in a 68-page 2008 Milwaukee Police report.
Chicago newspapers are already reporting cases of early voters casting ballots for Republicans on Cook County’s touch-screen machines, only to have the machines switch their votes to the Democrat opponent.
Democratic governor Quinn signed the changes into law after the Democratic legislature rammed them through on the second-to-last day of this year s session. Despite his claim that the new law is all about “removing barriers to vote” the same-day registration and expanded early voting hours apply only to the November election. They then mysteriously expire. Or perhaps not so mysteriously. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, under siege from minority and liberal opponents of his tenure, was said to worry that expanded voting opportunities would benefit a challenger seeking to oust him in the spring 2015 election. So the new voting rules had to go, after they presumably serve their purpose in rescuing the unpopular Governor Quinn from defeat.
All of this drew sarcasm from New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was in town recently to support Bruce Rauner, Quinn s opponent. “He will try every trick in the book,” Christie told reporters in Chicago. “I am sure it was all based upon public policy, good public policy to get same day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.”
But Christie was just getting started. “Now I see that the courts have ruled that the Libertarian candidate can be on the ticket but the Green Party cannot. Another interesting development. . . . You people in Illinois make New Jersey people blush, it is unbelievable, right?”
Helping get Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm on the ballot to presumably draw votes from Rauner is only the beginning of how the Chicago Way is operating this election. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Operating Engineers Union has donated “six figures” to an independent expenditure campaign on behalf of Grimm. Union president Jim Sweeney issued a statement saying, “Nearly half of our members in Illinois pull Republican ballots in a typical primary election, so it is important that these members have the opportunity to back a candidate that will not attack their livelihood.” He claimed that Grimm, who recently met with union officials, “recognizes the value that unions add to Illinois’ economy and agrees that we accomplish more as a state when we focus on job creation instead of attacking unions.”
Political reformers in Chicago have seen all this before, and they are not surprised that Barack Obama goes along with it. “We have a sick political culture, and that’s the environment Barack Obama came from,” Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, warned ABC News when Obama ran in 2008. He noted that Obama “had been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption in his home state.”
The Cook County machine has long been known to have the ability to deliver many thousands of questionable votes for their candidates of choice, as a federal grand jury concluded in 1983. The U.S. attorney in Chicago at the time, Daniel Webb, estimated that at least 100,000 fraudulent votes (10 percent of all votes in the city) had been cast in the previous year’s race for governor. Webb indicted 65 people for federal-election crimes, and all but two (one found incompetent to stand trial and another who died) were convicted.
Obama’s friends in Illinois are determined to use “Chicago Way” methods to retain control of the governor’s office this year. The state government may be saddled with unsustainable debt and pension obligations, but the Democratic party machine is determined to make sure they stay in control and the party oligarchy’s music keeps playing as long as it can.