Ann Maher Nov. 17, 2014, 5:35pm

An attorney observing post election processes in southern Illinois expressed confidence that the retention of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier will not be challenged.

Karmeier, who was subject to a $2 million negative attack just two weeks before the election, eked out victory by 2,546 votes of those counted election night at the district's 38 election authorities. He needed at least 60 percent to be retained to a second 10-year term, and he got 60.68 on Nov. 4.

But the counting of ballots did not end on election night.

Christine Svenson of Chicago said that because stakes are so high in the retention race, she was hired to help ensure that the process for counting provisional and mail-in absentee ballots at all election authorities is free of voter or government fraud.

The Record retained Svenson on Nov. 5.

She indicated that the post-election voter integrity initiative she has coordinated has been helped by organizers of an anti-fraud effort in place in St. Clair County since early voting began.

Svenson said the "possibilities are endless" for fraud to occur in post-election day counting - from impostor ballots to government officials accepting bribes.

She said that "so much money" is on the line for those who financed the anti-retention campaign against Karmeier.

Lawyers who stand to gain approximately $2 billion in fees if judgments that were overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2005 are restored sought Karmeier's ouster.

Those behind the anti-Karmeier campaign included lawyers associated with lead counsel Stephen Tillery in the $10.1 billion Price v. Philip Morris case, as well as attorney Robert Clifford of Chicago and his co-counsel who seek to restore Avery v. State Farm at triple the original verdict for an amount approaching $8 billion.

Karmeier voted along with the majority of justices who overturned Price and Avery.

Svenson said that she has not observed any instances of criminal activity since she and a team of volunteers have been on the scene at election offices in Madison and St. Clair counties and in East St. Louis. Madison and St. Clair counties are the most populous in the district.

In addition to Madison and St. Clair counties, observers will be at Monroe, Jackson and Williamson counties Tuesday when votes are counted.

By tomorrow all remaining outstanding ballots - approximately 1,400 provisionals and 400 absentees - will be counted.

Provisional voting allows a person whose eligibility has been questioned on election day to vote. The provisional votes are then held separately and counted after election day if the authority determines the voter is eligible.

Svenson said that most of the provisional votes in the 37 counties will be counted because those voters provided appropriate documentation.

Not only are there not enough uncounted votes to lower Karmeier's rate of retention below 60 percent, Svenson said she has not seen any evidence of mounting opposition to challenge the results.

She said that in her experience a losing party who intends to challenge election results - by alleging fraud, misconduct or mistakes - will be present at election offices and go "toe to toe" with opponents.

"I haven't witnessed opposition here," Svenson said.

One of the most likely ways for Karmeier's retention to be challenged could come from a voter who might first ask for a discovery recount and then petition for recount.

"In this particular race there is an interesting question of who has standing (to challenge)," Svenson said. "It's a retention race - and there is no 'other' party."

She said that a voter likely would have standing, but that it is "not set in stone."

Other obstacles to initiating a discovery recount include making the request within five days of certification at all 38 election authorities, and pleading very specific allegations of fraud or misconduct by affidavit, according to Svenson.

The next step for a challenger would be to file a petition for recount at the circuit court level within 30 days of certification by the State Board of Elections - or by Dec. 24.

Svenson said that a petitioner could "judge shop."

"I'm guessing that it would be Madison or St. Clair County where a judge might give them some leeway or with a judge that doesn't like a particular supreme court justice," she said.

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