A former candidate for Evanston City Council says incorrect information given to her by City Clerk Devon Reid has prevented her from running as a write-in candidate in April’s election.

Rebeca Mendoza was going to run for 5th Ward alderman. She tells Evanston Now that she contacted Clerk Reid in late January about filing the necessary paperwork.

On Jan. 21, Reid responded via email, telling Mendoza, “Due to COVID related building closure and the less stringent filing rules for Write-in candidates, I’m happy to accept your declaration by email or fax.”

Mendoza emailed the form to the Clerk, only to find out later that write-in declarations have to be filed with the county clerk’s office, not the city clerk, and she missed the deadline.

One of the candidates who will be on the 5th Ward ballot in April is Bobby Burns, who worked as a deputy to Reid for several months after Reid won election to the clerk’s job in 2017.

“I really feel like our city clerk’s office let me down,” Mendoza says. She says giving her the wrong information was perhaps unintentional, or else it was “grossly incompetent.”

In an email to Evanston Now, Reid stated, “I have read candidate Mendoza’s letter and I feel her disappointment in making errors that have now prohibited her running. This is a lesson for all of us and the Clerk’s office will continue to ensure residents are as informed as possible as to their democratic rights.”

However, Mendoza says the Clerk should proactively help write-in candidates to navigate the system. “There’s definitely no education for write-ins,” she says. “They just should have said it [the declaration paperwork] goes downtown.”

This was the second time Mendoza’s candidacy was derailed by an election law technicality. She had originally filed to run as a non-write-in, but did not properly “bind” her paperwork when she handed it in physically at the city clerk’s office (regular candidacy papers are filed there, write-ins are filed with the county) late last year.

A voter objected to the “unbound” papers. The city’s three-member Elections Board, which includes Reid, overruled the objection and was prepared to let Mendoza’s name stay on the regular ballot. However, the objector then took the issue to court, which took Mendoza’s name off.

Mendoza says, “I do accept responsibility for not having a stapler,” to bind the forms, but in the Elections Board hearing, said that Deputy Clerk Eduardo Gomez told her it was OK to turn in the paperwork as is. While Gomez conceded saying that, he indicated he did not say the unbound paperwork would comply with the state code, only that “I meant anyone could turn in petitions as they see fit.”

After the stapler technicality saw her booted from the regular ballot, Mendoza decided to run as a write-in, but got booted again.

“I feel pretty dumb trusting the clerk’s office,” she says. Mendoza remains a member of the District 65 Board of Education. Deputy Clerk Gomez ran as a write-in candidate for clerk in the recent primary. He and other write-ins are waiting to see if they received enough votes to qualify for the general election.

As for Clerk Reid, assuming he does not fall behind when mail-in votes from the recent primary are counted, he will be on the ballot next month for 8th Ward alderman.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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