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Officials Begin Airing Petition Challenges Monday

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In a banner election year it will be a daunting task.

Later Monday, the Chicago Board of Elections begins to review hundreds of challenges to nominating petitions filed on behalf of candidates for mayor and alderman.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole reports the rush is on to resolve the record number of disputes to create a ballot in time for the fast-approaching election.

They were wheeled in and hoisted up, thousands of nominating petitions. They also amounted to a record number of challenges, 426.

"It's going to be a field day for election lawyers," Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green said.

Before voters can cast their ballots Feb. 22, the Chicago Board of Elections must decide which challenges have no merit, and which they can rule upon. A disputed decision, appealed in court, could eventually stall a campaign's momentum.

"This is not a case study in good government -- this is a case study in good old fashioned Chicago politics," Green said.

While campaigning Sunday, mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel said the more than two dozen challenges to his residency are lost on voters. Emanuel spent the past two years in Washington as President Obama's chief of staff, and some question whether he is technically a Chicago resident.

"The residents of the City of Chicago are interested in safety on their streets and the strength of their schools; they are not interested in my residency, " Emanuel said.

Evidence is also surfacing that several candidates are being asked to pool their finances to mount a considerable anti-Rahm legal challenge. Candidate Miguel Del Valle says he won't confirm who called him, only that he refused to participate.

Also, there are charges notary signatures were forged on petitions that canvassers presented for four mayoral candidates, including Carol Moseley Braun and state Sen. James Meeks. Mayor Richard M. Daley is now calling for a federal investigation.

"If that's true, those people ought to go to jail. It's that simple, it's fraud, " Moseley Braun said.

"The candidates are the victim, because the candidates could possibly lose an election or not be on a ballot one day because people are doing this kind of stuff," added Meeks.

The candidates whose campaigns are facing the notary challenges paid private parties to have their petitions notarized. Illinois Secretary of State Jessie White's office is also looking into the claims of fraud.

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