by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Lawyers for Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's campaign say they're confident she'll survive a ballot challenge from Democratic rival Bob Fioretti, who is accusing the incumbent of a "pattern of fraud" on her nominating petitions.
Last month, Fioretti filed an objection to Foxx's petitions, and a hearing officer's initial review of the 20,762 signatures she submitted left her with 10,641 valid signatures – 3,362 more than she needs to stay on the ballot.
Thousands of Foxx's signatures were deemed invalid; either because the signatures or listed addresses didn't match the person's voter registration records, or because of other errors on the paperwork.
However, Fioretti's attorneys have asked a hearing officer to throw out all of Foxx's petitions, claiming the sheer number of signatures deemed to not be genuine shows a "pattern of fraud."
Short of that request, Fioretti's team said the hearing officer should throw out 3,854 more signatures collected by 25 petition circulators, claiming their specific petitions showed clear evidence of fraud.
"There is pervasive disregard for election law in these petitions," Fioretti attorney Jeff Greenspan said.
However, Foxx's attorneys noted that Fioretti has presented no witnesses or handwriting experts to establish proof of fraud. They said it's wrong to extrapolate a pattern of fraud based solely on the number of signatures deemed invalid.
"Without any evidence of a pattern of fraud, it cannot be fraud," said one of Foxx's attorneys, Ed Mullen.
Mullen argued that the mistakes on Foxx's nominating petitions amount to no more than common innocent mistakes that every candidate faces when submitting signatures.
Foxx's team said it's common for any candidate to gather many signatures that don't match a person's voter registration, because they sign in a rush; or that some people who sign a nominating petition have moved since they last registered to vote, and their address no longer matches their voting record, making their signature invalid.
Mullen and fellow Foxx attorney Michael Kreloff said that's why most candidates file two to three times the minimum number of signatures on their petitions, because innocent mistakes are so common.
Kreloff and Mullen said they're confident Foxx will survive the petition challenge.
Hearing officer Barbara Goodman said she would issue a written recommendation to the legal counsel for the Cook County Officer's Electoral Board, who would then make a recommendation to the board itself. She did not say when she would hand down her findings.
Fioretti, a former Chicago alderman, is one of three Democrats running against Foxx in the Democratic primary for Cook County State's Attorney. The other two Democratic challengers are former Cook County and federal prosecutor Donna More -- who also ran against Foxx in 2016 -- and Naval intelligence officer and former county prosecutor Bill Conway.
Two Republicans, former county prosecutor Christopher Pfannkuche and former Cook County judge Patrick W. "Pat" O'Brien, also are running for state's attorney.
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