Hairston Will Be Sworn in May 20 While Calloway Amends Recount Petition

Hairston was declared the winner of the April runoff election after a discovery recount was conducted at Calloway’s request.


Challenger William Calloway (left) and incumbent Fifth Ward Hairston (right)

By Dimitriy Leksanov

At a hearing last Thursday, Fifth Ward aldermanic candidate William Calloway unveiled plans to lodge a new complaint against incumbent and winner Leslie Hairston, who will be seated with the rest of the incoming aldermen on May 20, according to reporting by the Hyde Park Herald.

His plan comes three weeks after formally filing a petition for a discovery recount that has now been completed.

Calloway’s initial complaint called for recounts in 10 precincts throughout the Fifth Ward over alleged voting machine malfunctions, ballots cast by ineligible voters, and fewer judges present at polling places than required.

Following the first hearing on April 18, Calloway’s attorney at the time, Elizabeth Homsy, spoke about possible inconsistencies in the number of judges present on site, saying, “It makes it difficult to monitor these elections without sufficient staff.”

The amended complaint, however, will ask circuit court judge LaGuina Clay-Herron to order a recount of the entire Fifth Ward. According to the Herald, this new petition will focus on election code violations during the April 2 runoff election. Calloway’s new attorney, Frank Avila, told the Herald that the certificates for voting results in some precincts “were not completed or not completed fully and correctly.”

After a meeting between Hairston and Calloway’s attorneys on April 29, Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen said that the discovery recount had not yet found any “substantial deviations” in voting.

At a following hearing on May 2, Allen said that “there’s nothing to suggest that there’s any discrepancies large enough to overturn this election result.” In response, Calloway told a group of supporters, “I beat Leslie Hairston on election night, but in this world, it’s not about what you know. It’s about what you can prove, and we have to prove that.”

Calloway and Avila are now slated to appear before Clay-Herron on May 23 for a status hearing regarding the updated petition. However, according to the Herald, at a May 9 hearing Allen said that the board will file a motion beforehand to have the new complaint dismissed.

This is only the most recent development in what has been the closest and longest race since Hairston first took office.

Hairston has served on the City Council for two decades, helping to oversee numerous local development efforts, including a reconstruction of South Lake Shore Drive. However, some constituents, including Calloway, have claimed Hairston has not done enough for the residents of the southern parts of the ward, instead focusing her attention on Hyde Park in the north.

Calloway is a community organizer who came to prominence for his role in the release of a police video of the murder of Laquan McDonald.

Leading up to the election, Hairston and Calloway disagreed most prominently on a potential Community Benefits Agreement for the incoming Obama Presidential Center.

The Fifth Ward is not the only aldermanic race that has come down to post-runoff petitions and recounts. The 33rd Ward race, between incumbent Deb Mell and challenger Rossana Rodríguez-Sanchez, saw Mell seek a partial recount after losing the runoff by just 13 votes. Mell conceded on April 27.

Similarly, in the race for 46th Ward alderman, incumbent James Cappleman defeated challenger Marianne Lalonde by just 25 votes in the runoff. This slim margin led to another recount, which increased the disparity to 30 votes.

Hairston will be sworn in with the rest of the City Council on May 20.