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Halpin, Meeks Signatures Challenged: Notary Maricela Rodriguez Claims Her Signature Was Forged

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In the ten days since the filing deadline for petitions to get on the ballot for Chicago mayor, politicos tied to the various campaigns have been poring over one another's signatures, looking for irregularities. By the deadline for registering objections on Tuesday, a record 426 challenges had been been issued against candidates in the city's various races.

Many of the objections were filed against Rahm Emanuel, challenging the legal status of his residency. But some more surprising challenges also came to light as the deadline passed.

Perhaps most striking was the claim by notary public Maricela Rodriguez that her signature had been forged on a number of petitions, both for State Senator James Meeks and businessman Rob Halpin.

From the Sun-Times:

Rodriguez, a district manager for a currency-exchange company, says she didn't notarize any petitions for Halpin or Meeks.

To prove it, the Aurora woman provided a copy of her driver's license, which has a signature that bears no resemblance to the notary's signatures on the petitions. She also provided a copy of her notary seal, which is different from the seal on the Halpin and Meeks petitions.

"There is something very odd about" the petitions, said Rodriguez, who reviewed several of them at the request of the Chicago Sun-Times. "It doesn't look like my seal. I would think I would remember doing 200 notaries for this person [Hardy]."

The candidacies of Meeks and Halpin have been intertwined in scandal in recent days. A Sun-Times story yesterday revealed that Arthur J. Hardy, a homeless man who the Tribune reports is also a convicted sex offender, circulated petitions for both candidates. Hardy collected nearly 4,000 signatures for the neophyte Halpin -- more than 20 percent of his total -- and a similar number for Meeks.

Many of the signatures Hardy collected have fallen under scrutiny. Apparently, pages of them contain the same handwriting, and many are by such characters as "Steven Colbert" and "Rodney Dangerfield."

Maricela Rodriguez's name -- apparently forged -- appears on many of the petitions circulated by Hardy for Halpin. Oddly enough, though, her name is not on any of the pages he circulated for Meeks. But her signature does appear on pages from other Meeks circulators.

Some observers have suggested that Hardy's working for Meeks and Halpin is no coincidence. Halpin is Rahm Emanuel's tenant, the man who refused to move out when Emanuel moved back to the city. His presence on the ballot would be a reminder to voters of Emanuel's recent stint in D.C. and away from Chicago, which would surely be to Meeks's benefit.

Meanwhile, the leading legal challenger to Emanuel's residency status is Burt Odelson, a lawyer who is also defending Meeks in the challenges to his signatures.

The reverend and state senator denies any ties to any other candidates. "I don't know Rob Halpin," he told reporters earlier in the week.