Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Labor leader at Caseyville rally: 'Vote often, vote early...whatever you can get away with'


By Ann Maher | Sep 18, 2018

From left: candidates Kevin Hoerner, Brendan Kelly, Andrew Lopinot, John O'Gara, Heinz Rudolf and Chris Kolker. All but O'Gara have received contributions from Steamfitters Local 439.

An O'Fallon attorney who's been involved in voter integrity initiatives as a volunteer for six years and who's also running for circuit judge in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit said he is "very disturbed" by a video circulating on social media of a local labor leader encouraging people to "vote early and often," as in "East St. Louis."

Paul Evans, a Republican, said it is particularly bothersome because he was reviewing evidence on Tuesday of what he says is voter fraud in Cahokia - in the form of a voter registration card issued to Kymmondre D. Mitchell on Howell Avenue. The problem is that the owner of the property says no such person currently lives there or has ever lived there.

"My frustration is that when we try and bring this to the attention of persons in authority - there is a lack of interest," Evans said. "I am told to contact the voter fraud hotline. Nothing ever happens."

Evans and others frustrated by officials' lack of interest in alleged voter fraud pointed to a Democratic political event on Saturday in Caseyville - where several big name politicians appeared -  as an example of that indifference.

At the event, the head of Steamfitters Local 439, Totsy Bailey, rallied a crowd of laborers, saying that gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker was going to win, and "win big," but, "he won't win if you do not get out and vote."

"You need to early I say, East St. often, vote early...whatever you can get away with. I shouldn't say that. I really don't care," Bailey said.

Bailey was on a stage introducing speakers, but the video does not show who spoke after he made his statements. He was contacted for comment on Monday, but has not returned a phone call.

Politicians who attended the event include Sen. Dick Durbin, gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, State's Attorney and congressional candidate Brendan Kelly, Fifth District Appellate Court candidate Kevin Hoerner and St. Clair County associate judges John O'Gara, Heinz Rudolf and Chris Kolker, who are running for circuit court seats.

Kelly, who helps oversee voter integrity in the county, along with the sheriff and county clerk, said he did not hear Bailey's remarks.

"But as a state's attorney who's prosecuted more state election charges than any prosecutor in southern Illinois and sent people to prison for it, let me take this opportunity to remind the public they can report election misconduct to the Southern Illinois Public Corruption Task Force tip line at 618-589-7353," he said in a statement.

Belleville attorney and candidate for circuit judge in St. Clair County, Laninya Cason, took offense at Bailey's remarks.

She said that State's Attorney Kelly's response in telling the public to call the voter fraud hotline was hypocritical.

"Did he hotline himself? Isn't he in charge of voter integrity?" she said.

Cason, who is originally from East St. Louis and whose family still lives there, also said there were several persons who spoke after Bailey's remarks who did not take an opportunity to walk back what he said.

"I didn't see any Black people there, so he (Bailey) felt really comfortable," she said. "If there were any Black people there they would say they weren't."

In the November election, Cason faces Kolker; Evans faces O'Gara. Republican Katherine Ruocco faces Rudolf.

As for his voter integrity effort, Evans said through his involvement in political campaigns he has seen what he calls "a lot of fraud."

He got involved, he said, because so many people have felt disenfranchised by fraud.

"People want to feel their votes matter," he said.

He said fraud occurs in distressed communities because of economic pressures where people will take money however they can get it, and persons in authority "look the other way."

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St. Clair County State's Attorney's of Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Illinois

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