02/19/2013 05:07 pm ET

Cicero Voter Intimidation: Candidate Calls For Probe As County Clerk Accuses Officials Of Dirty Politics

The race for president in the suburban Chicago town of Cicero is getting ugly.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, allegations of voter intimidation by town officials came to a head Monday when Cook County Clerk David Orr accused Cicero officials in a letter of “improperly — and possibly illegally” — using town employees to boost the campaign of the incumbent, Cicero Town President Larry Dominick.

Orr isn't the only one calling for a closer look at the town's Feb. 26 primary race: Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Dominick challenger Juan Ochoa called on Orr, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Sheriff Tom Dart to launch a probe into voter intimidation allegations, reports the Daily Herald.

“You need to come here to Cicero and protect the rights of [Latino voters],” Gutierrez said Monday. “Alvarez, come here. Protect the voters here against this infamy of corruption here in Cicero.”

Among the allegations levied in the three-way race: uniformed town employees knocking on voter's doors asking about their "voting intentions or actions" and showing up at the homes of Latino voters telling them voting by mail is illegal.

Ochoa blasted town officials in a campaign statement released Monday:

"[Town of Cicero Community Service Officers] knowingly and falsely portrayed themselves as police officers, and interrogated and intimidated voters, telling them that voting by mail is illegal, and that if they submitted their mail-in ballots, they would be committing fraud, and that their votes would not count."

The Chicago Tribune reports Orr also alleges that town Clerk Maria Punzo-Arias told a group of seniors to deliver their mail-in ballots to her office rather than mailing them to or dropping them off at Orr's office.

Gutierrez and Ochoa say Cicero officials are specifically trying to suppress the Latino vote, reports WBEZ. According to the 2010 Census, more than 86 percent of Cicero residents are Latino.

Town spokesman Ray Hanania denied any cases of voter intimidation to various media outlets, telling the Herald officials were simply trying to stomp out what appeared to be voter irregularities. In this election, the number of absentee ballots quintupled from years past, many of which Hanania claimed were registered to vacant lots and boarded-up homes.

Dominick has a history of dust-ups when it comes to the town's Latino residents: In 2011, Dominick allegedly used several racial slurs to describe Latinos and was sued by an employee on the city's payroll for firing him based on his race.



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