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Confusion over rule change: Two candidates move on after primary

Candidates running for 4th Ward alderman including KevMatthews (center) speak residents during candidate forum Wesley United Methodist church Monday February

Candidates running for 4th Ward alderman, including Kevin Matthews (center), speak to residents during a candidate forum at Wesley United Methodist church on Monday, February 18, 2013. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 27, 2013 6:14AM

AURORA — Is it four, or is it two?

As confusion loomed over how many aldermanic candidates would move on after today’s Tuesday’s primary election for two Aurora wards, Aurora Election Commission Executive Director Linda Fechner confirmed Monday that only two candidates will move on out of each aldermanic primary race.

The decrease in ballot spots prompted one aldermanic candidate to drop out of the race.

Late Sunday night, 9th Ward hopeful Michael Ochs announced that he would drop out of the primary race, leaving four candidates vying for the two ballot spots. Ochs said that he just learned Saturday morning that only two candidates would move on, and that weighed heavily on his decision to drop out ahead of the primary.

“It certainly had a tremendous amount of weight,” Ochs said. “When I thought it was four... I was going to wait and see how the numbers were going to play out.”

Rule change

Initially, candidates were told that the top four vote-getters in each primary race would move on to the April 9 ballot. But the Election Commission’s website recently stated that only the two candidates to get the most votes in the each ward primary would have a spot on the April ballot.

Fechner admitted there was some confusion over how many candidates would make it out of the primary and onto a ballot.

Fechner said that until 2011, and according to the state’s election law, the top four candidates would move on. But in 2011, there was a change to the state’s municipal code that affected municipal primary elections — unbeknownst to Fechner.

“(Initially,) that’s what we knew. I talked with the state, everyone, and verified top four,” Fechner said. “Then someone from the city came in and said, ‘No, (there’s) this municipal code.’ Lo and behold.”

Fechner declined to name exactly who brought the rule change to the Election Commission’s attention in December 2012.

From there, Fechner confirmed the election change.

“We updated the website. That was pretty early on,” Fechner said. “We do know some people are now waiving their arms, saying, ‘I didn’t know.’”

Fechner said that this is the first primary election affected by the 2011 rule change.

Another drop out

Aurora voters also will be heading out Tuesday to cast primary ballots in the 4th Ward aldermanic race.

And in that race, another candidate also has quit.

There are six candidates still in the 4th Ward contest, after Kevin Mathews quit the race last week.

The top two vote getters in the 4th ward will move on to the April 9 election.

There also is primary balloting today for Aurora Township Democrats.

Incumbent Supervisor Christina Campos is being challenged by Bill Catching and Paul Greviskes.

The clerk race has candidates Herbert Hill and Ken Christy, and eight candidates are vying for four open trustee seats.

In April, the winning Democratic candidates will face Republican challengers slated by the party.

Candidate confusion

In the 9th Ward, Ochs said he likely still would have dropped out of the race after the primary just to ensure another candidate didn’t make the ballot.

“If I stayed in it — I was trying to protect the integrity of the election by keeping people (in the race) that I see would be the best for the ward,” he said.

Ochs said candidates were told at the lottery for ballot positions at the Election Commission that the top four candidates would remain in the general election race.

“When you are told by someone at the Election Commission, you have to have a certain amount of confidence in the information that you are being given by the people who are giving the information,” he said.

Once the Election Commission learned of the rule change, they should have notified candidates individually, Ochs said.

“They went to their website and put a posting about it. But there was no communication with candidates,” Ochs said.

He said the ballot bewilderment could have been cleared up a long time ago.

“All it would have taken is 30 minutes of one staffer’s time to pick up the phone ... or five stamps on five envelopes that could have avoided a lot of confusion,” he said.

Instead of running, Ochs has thrown his support to 9th Ward candidate Matt Harrington. Candidates Edward Bugg, Marge Linnane and Bob Shelton are also vying to be the two that move onto the general election ballot.

Fechner said she never makes predictions about voter turn out.

“I plan for 110 percent. (It may be) 5, 10 or 15 percent, but I want 100 percent,” she said.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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