Lawsuit challenges District 103 write-in results

? Robert Jonak, who lost in his bid to unseat Humberto Andrade claims votes not counted correctly.

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By BOB UPHUES

A Lyons resident who came up short as a District 103 trustee write-in candidate on April 5 has filed a lawsuit contesting the election.

Two men, Humberto Andrade of Stickney and Robert Jonak of Lyons, filed papers to run as write-ins for a vacant four-year term on the District 103 school board. Andrade, who served as a District 103 board member from 2001-05, originally was on the April 5 ballot as candidate for the position, but was knocked off when he failed to file all of the necessary paperwork with the Cook County Clerk's office.

After the write-in contest, Andrade tallied 146 votes to Jonak's 93 and was declared the winner of the vacant school board seat.

But on May 23 Jonak filed suit in the County Division of Circuit Court of Cook County, claiming that not only had Andrade failed to file a complete Declaration of Candidacy with the County Clerk, but that election judges made numerous mistakes in the handling of write-in ballots.

The suit asks the court to either declare Andrade's candidacy null and void or to order a complete recount of write-in ballots in each of the district's 24 precincts.

"I have no problem with Humberto," said Jonak, who serves as the Neighborhood Watch coordinator for the Village of Lyons. "That's not my point, not my purpose. I'm just making sure everyone's vote is counted and counted correctly."

Andrade did not respond to several phone messages. It's unclear whether he will participate in the suit.

Jonak's attorney, Lawrence Zdarsky, said that there should be a hearing date for the suit within a week or so.

"As of 4 p.m. [last Friday] no attorney had provided for an appearance on behalf of Mr. Andrade," Zdarsky said. "But whether he obtains counsel or not, within 10 days of being served with the suit, the court will set a briefing schedule."

Zdarsky was also the lawyer for District 103 board member Stephen Mazur in February, when Mazur sought to throw three candidates off the April 5 ballot. He was successful in getting two, James Gross and Joseph Pizzuto, off the ballot, creating a vacancy for one of the four-year terms up for election.

Mazur has been rumored to be behind Jonak's lawsuit, with some wondering whether Mazur is paying for the suit. It's a charge Mazur, who has been openly critical of District 103 Superintendent Dr. Raymond Lauk, flatly denies.

"I am not paying for the lawsuit," Mazur said. "Did I refer him to Larry [Zdarsky]? Yes, I did. But I think [what] the [election] judges did was unjust to Jonak and the people of Lyons."

Jonak is also critical of Lauk, saying, "I wasn't happy with the leadership in District 103 ... both the board and the administration. I know I would have made a positive influence.

"Ray Lauk is a wonderful person, but I don't agree with a lot of his ideas," Jonak said. "There are a lot of changes he's making I don't agree with. As a citizen and parent, I have that right."

At least one of Jonak's charges in the suit appears to be moot. Jonak contends that Andrade failed to designate the term of office he was running for on his Declaration of Candidacy for the write-in post. He cited as evidence the Cook County Clerk's Web site, which did not indicate the specific term for Andrade in its listing of write-in candidates.

However, the mistake appears to have been the County Clerk's. A copy of Andrade's Declaration of Candidacy, obtained from the Cook County Clerk's office, clearly indicates that Andrade filled out the form correctly.

Jonak's other charges may not be so easily dismissed. Jonak alleges that while working as a poll watcher in Lyons Township Precincts 114 and 110 he personally witnessed voting irregularities, including a lack of pens for write-in votes, judges who never checked for "over-votes" with respect to write-ins for Andrade, judges who improperly counted votes with check marks instead of an "X", judges who stated there were no write-in candidates, judges who never checked that the "office" was designated before counting a write-in for Andrade and judges who didn't realize there were write-ins until they found a notice from the Clerk's office when they opened the envelope of absentee ballots at 5 p.m. on Election Day.

In addition, Jonak included in his suit sworn affidavits from 23 voters in Precincts 105 and 115 where no write-in votes were tallied by either candidate that their write-in votes for Jonak were not counted.

Based on the potential improper counting of Andrade votes and the potential addition of several Jonak votes, the suit alleges "there is a substantial likelihood that the results of this election, when properly counted, will prove ... Jonak the winner" of the write-in campaign.

"The vote totals will change," Jonak said. "If it's in my favor, so be it; if not, so be it. But I can't sit idly by."

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