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Proviso Probe

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oak Park boots homeless veteran from ballot

This morning the Village of Oak Park's electoral board voted to removed Daniel Fore, a U.S. military veteran, from the ballot for village trustee because he is homeless. He is registered to vote at a relative's home in Oak Park. See Wednesday Journal for background.

I heard about this case through someone. My initial reaction was, what's the harm if a homeless person runs for office? If s/he's high enough functioning to get the votes, why should voters be deprived of a quality candidate?

I had a friend who worked in a nursing home caring for the developmentally disabled in western New York. One of the residents regularly ran for elected office. He did the paperwork and got his name on the ballot. My friend thought he got a kick from seeing his name on the ballot when he went to vote.

Is Oak Park's democracy so fragile that Daniel Fore being on the ballot will damage the village?

When I researched the story, I realized I've met Daniel Fore. He was getting signatures to oppose the village closing Eddy Garcia's restaurant. While I wasn't so impressed with the guy that I'd campaign for him, he wouldn't be the biggest idiot elected to local government in the western suburbs either.

While I know and respect all the members of the electoral board, Village President David Pope, Village Clerk Sandra Sokol and Trustee Ray Johnson, I think the right outcome is to let Fore run for office. However, Pope, Sokol and Johnson may have felt Illinois law tied their hands and punted the issue to federal court. Recently, a federal court has overturned the requirement that one must be a registered voter to circulate nominating petitions. Allowing homeless people to run for office from their address where they are registered to vote seems a logical extension of this thinking. Arbitrary rules should not keep people from participating in the political process.

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