By Mike Matejka
Sometimes I hear people say, “I wish I had more choice on the ballot” or “I wish I had someone else to vote for.” Actually, I heard it a lot going door to door during the last Presidential election.
To run for public office, whether it’s local, state or national, takes either a foolish heart or courage, and I hope it’s courage. Putting one’s name out for public service can lead to accusations and being blamed for every problem in the world, especially if one is elected.
That is why I am very discouraged and disheartened by those challenging the election petitions of current Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner and other candidates. Now looking at an opponent’s election petitions is a legitimate action. I’ve done it before; it’s tedious; voter signatures are on file at the County Clerk and the Bloomington Election Commission along with the voters’ addresses; if those don’t match, a challenger has a legitimate right to question someone’s ballot petitions.
Those challenging the Mayor have failed to do that tedious work. Instead, they’ve challenged hundreds of voter signatures, without having gone through these individual records to find specific discrepancies; nor have they produced affidavits from voters who said they did not sign the petition. There is only one word for the conduct displayed here and it’s harassment.
Not only do the petition challengers and their cohort of video-toting sidekicks from Edgar County have little evidence of petition fraud, they have also been extremely disrespectful to the volunteers who serve as election commissioners, calling for citizen’s arrest and name calling. Going up to Mayor Renner during the hearing and publicly calling him the name of a body orifice is totally inappropriate.
This is not only disrespectful to those running for office, it’s also disrespectful to we the citizens. If voters have legitimately signed a petition for a candidate, that signature should be respected, rather than challenged on dubious grounds. Also, challenging petitions without specific rationales is just a tactic to make candidates look suspicious.
Now if someone doesn’t agree with an elected official, any citizen should respectfully voice their difference. If they disagree strongly enough, run for office. Five people are running for Bloomington mayor, and at least those individuals are putting their name out there.
Local government positions in McLean County have few perks and low pay. Hopefully, those who run are doing so from a spirit of public service. Ask yourself, why don’t more good people run office? Look at the onslaught some of our candidates have endured from interlopers at the Election Commission, and you’ll understand why.
Mike Matejka is the Governmental Affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, covering 11,000 union Laborers in northern Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. He lives in Normal. He served on the Bloomington City Council for 18 years, is a past president of the McLean County Historical Society and Vice-President of the Illinois Labor History Society.
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