Mark Kern should step down

By Joe Behnken | Jul 3, 2005

For decades people in St. Clair County have patiently awaited the return of fair elections.

For decades people in St. Clair County have patiently awaited the return of fair elections.

In life, and especially in politics, perception is viewed as reality. As the perception goes, East St. Louis is where illegal vote buying takes place to ensure county Democrats win elections.

Remarkably, a federal jury convicted five county Democrats for vote fraud in East St. Louis last week. The convictions are first steps at restoring the perception of integrity in St. Clair County elections. But it is only the beginning.

If County Board Chairman Mark Kern wants to leave politics with a legacy of decency, he should step down as chairman of the St. Clair County Board. His election Nov. 2 did not appear to happen the way it’s supposed to. The purchase of one vote should have disqualified him let alone $79,000 worth.

He won the election over challenger Steve Reeb, a Republican from Swansea. Kern received 56,708 votes to Reeb's 52,729 votes.

Again, as the perception goes, Kern's election was paid for by willing conspirators in East St. Louis who look forward to Election Day not as an opportunity to empower leaders, but as Pay Day.

St. Clair County Democratic leaders have been the one-eyed kings ruling over the valley of the blind without accountability to anybody, much less the voters.

Even though federal Judge Patrick Murphy—closely aligned with county Democrats—has the authority to water down the convictions with wrist slaps at sentencing, it will not in any way change the perception that the convicted politicos are guilty as judged by their peers. Even a higher court’s decision to overturn the verdict would not change the public’s perception of systematic electoral abuses in East St. Louis.

I am a life-long resident of St. Clair County and have been a poll watcher at East St. Louis Precinct 34 for the last two elections. I have personally observed many irregular activities.

If there is to be an end to the perception of subversion of elections in St. Clair County, investigators should follow the money to answer these questions:

Who were the major contributors to the county Democrat Party?

Has the organization been held accountable for how the money was spent?

Did the Democrat Party and its major contributors have any knowledge that money given to East St. Louis would be used to buy votes?

Illinois law does not contain an election recall provision.

But in light of the voter fraud convictions, state lawmakers should propose a special election for St. Clair County Board Chairman.

The right thing for Mark Kern to do is step down and if he sees fit run in an election that is not tainted.

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