Moline Mayor Scott Raes waged an assault on the very spirit of open, democratic elections. And, with the help of Moline Election Board, he's so far succeeding.
Only the state can stop him.
Raes' scored a major victory last week in his cynical crusade to run unopposed in April. Moline's Election Board tossed would-be challengers Stephanie Acri and Bob Vogelbaugh off the ballot because the forms weren't correctly numbered. It's an ironic ruling since the root cause of the apparent breach of state Election Law stemmed from City Hall itself.
Neither challenger filed petitions including names of the dead. Neither challenger underwent fraud. No, the forms given to the two challengers weren't correctly printed and the page numbers were missing. It's on the city.
But that was enough for Moline's local three-member election board to hand Raes his seat without having to defend his record. Alderwoman Lori Turner, 5th Ward, and public appointed member Connie Mohr-Wright sided with Raes. Aldermen Kevin Schoonmaker offered the lone dissent.
As anyone who follows local government knows, the whole thing is a bit too nepotistic. Last week's ruling is a master class in the need for state oversight, particularly from a set of eyes that have no dog in the fight.
Turner and Mohr-Wright said they languished over the decision. There's no reason to doubt their sincerity. Robbing thousands of their vote will weigh on the conscience of any self-aware citizen. But, in their strict, literalist interpretation of state code, Turner and Mohr-Wright missed the point.
They allowed for the weaponization of election law to the benefit of an incumbent. It's the voters, left without options, who are the victims.
It's nothing short of back-door voter suppression.
Acri and Vogelbaugh are left with few options. They can sue, a particularly cost-prohibitive route for small-time local candidates. Acri said she'll mount a write-in bid, a move that's almost doomed from the get-go.
There's a better option. Illinois Board of Elections should immediately intervene and assure that Moline voters have a choice at the polls. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan should immediately draft an opinion on the matter.
As it stands, Moline's coming mayoral election is little but an undemocratic power play.
Should challengers Acri and Vogelbaugh have caught the error? Perhaps. But, unlike moneyed big-ticket campaigns, local candidates aren't awash with high-price attorneys. Ultimately, it was officials in the City Clerk's Office who issued the incomplete forms.
City Hall dropped the ball. And, now, it's applying draconian logic to coronate Raes.
Moline voters deserve a choice. They deserve a debate about the future of their city. They deserve an election of ideas, where the incumbent must defend his record against those looking to unseat him. Raes may be the better of the three candidates. But, thanks to a severe application of the law, voters might never find out.
As it stands, Moline voters won't have a choice in April. The self-correcting electoral process will fail because Raes' leadership will go unquestioned.
That's unless state officials stand for the principles at the core of a representative Republic.
Anything less would be a silent endorsement of Raes' cynical farce.