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Cook County election officials paying special attention to Cicero

A vacant home this address 1305 S. 57th Ave. Cicero has registered inactive voter attached it according Cook County Clerk's

A vacant home at this address, 1305 S. 57th Ave. in Cicero has a registered inactive voter attached to it, according to the Cook County Clerk's Office. Photographed on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 2, 2013 11:46AM

Cook County Clerk David Orr wants to avoid the shenanigans that have traditionally plagued Election Day in Cicero.

There was the time in 2009 when off-duty, armed Chicago Police officers were stationed inside polling places, a clear no-no. And the countless reports of intimidation at polls and electioneering. In November, an alleged member of the Latin Kings was arrested at a polling site for allegedly harassing a poll worker.

Federal monitors have looked on at past Election Days in town.

Municipal offices, including the sought-after town president spot, are up for election Feb. 26.

“We have a very hotly contested race there in February,” Orr said. “…[and] we have a history.”

So the clerks’s office is sending representatives out to homes to make sure voting rolls are accurate. Officials are also conducting special training for election judges and planning to dispatch a large group of lawyers and employees on Election Day to make sure the process goes smoothly.

It’s pouring more resources into Cicero than into the 2nd Congressional District, where more than 20 candidates are vying to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. Four candidates are vying for town president in Cicero, although other offices are also up for election.

“There’s certainly more precincts in the 2nd congressional district and of course we’ll be ready for that, too, but it’s partly because it’s hotly contested,” Orr said of Cicero.

“We have very few reports of questionable activities at this moment,” he said of the South Side and suburban congressional district.

In Cicero, allegations made by candidates and community groups have prompted the clerk’s office to send workers out door-to-door looking at alleged vacant properties that have registered voters. So far, of 87 suspected addresses, 35 sites appeared vacant. Still, someone reported voting from three of those apparently vacant homes as recently as November, according the latest findings. The clerk’s office is investigating.

The clerk’s office is also looking at more than 250 addresses where the voters have allegedly moved away, and workers are randomly calling people who apply to vote by mail to make sure voters didn’t feel pressured to apply for the mail ballot. So far, about a dozen people have told the clerk’s office they felt pressure to apply, said spokeswoman Courtney Greve, adding that it’s unusual for these calls to produce any such reports.”

“It’s great they’re checking on everybody and looking into everything,” said Emilio “Emo” Cundari, Cicero’s assessor up for re-election. “That’s the way to go.”

And Juan Ochoa, running against Town President Larry Dominick, said more needs to be done.

“We’re glad David Orr’s office has realized that his office needs to take extraordinary steps in Cicero. We believe that the [Cook County] state’s attorney and the [U.S.] Justice Department should also take a look at this election very carefully and protect the vote.”

Meanwhile, David Donahue, a rival of Dominick’s running for town collector, said the clerk has his work cut out for him because most election judges are appointed by committeemen loyal to Dominick.

“They have a lot of hurdles to overcome in Cicero,” he said.

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