Pope, who has been an alderman since 1999 and either is credited, or trashed, for being a solid supporter (100 percent, Pope critics claim) of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, got the largest number of votes back in February, but not enough for a majority.
WHICH IS WHY he had to endure a run-off election against Susan Garza, a counselor at Jane Addams Elementary School in the East Side neighborhood and an official with the Chicago Teachers Union.
It would seem that most of the people who backed one of the other five aldermanic candidates in February united last week in their opposition to giving Pope a chance (if he makes it through another full four-year term) to be a 20-year alderman.
Because when all the votes in the 36 precincts of the 10th Ward were counted following Election Day, Garza had an 89-vote lead. She went so far as to declare herself the winner.
Although Pope was more low-key, realizing that this election in a part of Chicago often ignored by the rest of the city (although which I pay attention to because it’s my birthplace, the South Chicago neighborhood to be exact) could still swing in his favor.
IT WAS, AFTER all, just an 89-vote lead – so close that both candidates could accurately say they got 50 percent of the vote (Garza rounds down, while Pope rounds up).
There also were the dreaded absentee ballots, dreaded at least by those who want simple election outcomes that are known by about 9 p.m. on Election Night. Most definitely not those where we have to wait until the April 28 deadline for the Chicago Elections Board to complete its canvass.
For what it’s worth, by the end of the first day of counting absentee ballots, Garza was down to a 44-vote lead.
The elections board’s website indicates that by the resumption of counting on Monday, Garza has a 33-vote lead over Pope – 5,797 votes for Garza to 5,764 votes for Pope.
COULD WE WIND up with coming days chipping into that lead more and more to the point where Pope winds up the victor because of those people who wanted to cast ballots, but for whatever reason couldn’t make it to either an early voting center or a polling place last week?
After all, it takes only a one-vote margin to win an election. Who’s to say how funky the counting could get?
It is what motivated Garza’s supporters on Saturday to hold what they called an “End Corruption!” rally outside of Pope’s aldermanic office on 106th Street. Accusations were tossed out by Garza backers about how Pope backers harassed and threatened people, while also mailing in absentee ballots that had been time-stamped prior to the April 7 election date.
Even though the rules say that the key to a valid absentee ballot is that the postmark on the mailing be prior to Election Day. So ballots could still, theoretically, be showing up and wind up being counted. A stamp on the ballot wouldn’t mean anything!
UNLESS YOU BELIEVE the incumbent alderman is engaged in a conspiracy with the U.S. Postal Department, this one may be a bit of a stretch. Although the whole concept of votes still coming in and being counted relies so much on the public trust that it is no wonder some people are willing to believe the worst.
It is why Chicago Sun-Times reports are intriguing about how the identity of those who cast absentee ballots from the 10th Ward were inadvertently revealed. Making it possible theoretically that someone is trying to keep track as to which people voted the “wrong” way and need to be punished.
So for that ward most of us only notice on those occasions we’re looking down on it while driving through the Chicago Skyway, we don’t know the final count yet.
We’re going to have to wait and see whether it is Pope or Garza who winds up filing the request for a formal recount of Election Day results.