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Willie Wilson “won’t go there” on Trump

Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson called on the Illinois General Assembly on Friday to improve voter access in the city, especially for blacks and Hispanics, after what he said was a terrible turnout in their communities during this month’s general election.

Wilson, a businessman who has recently been known for free gas and grocery giveaways, said he was concerned about the Nov. 8 election because recent redistricting had resulted in voter turnout, mostly on the South and West Sides, being the worst. low. He said he would send a letter to Governor J. B. Pritzker and other Springfield leaders demanding a law allowing Chicago residents to vote at any polling place.

“It’s not political for me,” Wilson said at a news conference. He recalled his story of being the son of a sharecropper in Louisiana and said, “Of course, in the South in the Jim Crow days, we weren’t allowed to vote, so it’s personal to me. … We have to keep it going because a lot of people have died so that people like me and others have the right to vote.”

Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, Chicago authorities reduced the number of polling places by nearly 40% in compliance with a state law that increased the number of voters allowed at a polling station as more people vote early or by mail. This resulted in the opening of new polling stations for most Chicago voters, although the total number of polling stations was not significantly reduced.

Wilson said his push to open every polling place to everyone would remove some of the barriers that keep residents from voting. But he also acknowledged that a previous lawsuit he filed against the Chicago Board of Elections to stop the new polls failed, and his attorneys filed a voluntary motion to dismiss earlier this month.

“It didn’t work out the way we hoped, but we did the best we could,” Wilson said. “And now it’s another page.”

A rich businessman who has contributed more than $5 million to his campaign fund, Wilson is making his third bid for mayor of Chicago. He has done well with older black voters in previous elections. After he lost the first round of voting in 2019, Wilson endorsed incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot against Cook County Council President Toni Preckwinkle, helping her defeat Preckwinkle in a landslide.

This time, Wilson is among the announced candidates, including state Rep. Cambium “Cam” Buckner, community activist Ja’Mal Green, former CPS CEO Paul Wallace, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chewy” Garcia and Chicago Aldermen Raymond Lopez, Roderick Sawyer and Sophia King. Submission of candidate applications begins on Monday.

Chicago residents await early voting at the South Side YMCA on November 7, 2022 in Chicago.

Wilson has sought to brand himself as a crusader for voting rights and access in recent weeks, and his latest call comes with pressure on Springfield to allow Chicago residents to vote at any precinct before ballots go out in the Feb. 28 local election. The Chicago City Council does not have the authority to change guidelines related to precinct rules because they are part of the state’s election code.

Board of Elections spokesman Max Bever said the body is “not opposed” to a system in which Chicagoans would vote at any polling place, but that would likely mean the city’s entire voting program would switch to touchscreens.

When it comes to voter turnout in this month’s general election, all but one of the 10 districts with the lowest turnout were indeed in the South, Southwest and West, where the majority of the city’s black and Latino populations live. Turnout has ranged from the mid-20s to the low 30s, election data shows.

But total vote counting won’t be completed until Nov. 29, with more than 10,000 mail-in ballots still to be processed. The 2022 election also saw low overall voter turnout, with voter turnout of 44.3% that November and 22.8% in the June 28 primary, which was held in pre-district map precincts that Wilson sought to preserve.

Additional advance ballots, which can be an indication of how many voters went to the wrong polling station but still voted, fell from 9,759 in the 2018 general election to 6,192 this year.

“Perhaps it’s a little surprising that in a once-in-a-decade year, we have fewer (advance ballots) this time around than we did in the 2018 general election,” Bever wrote, though he noted it could also be due to lower voter turnout in 2022. numbers in general.

Wilson’s calls for election reform came in the same week that Lightfoot’s campaign attacked him for his previous endorsement of former Republican President Donald Trump, who announced this week that he would seek another term in 2024. Wilson said he voted for Trump in 2016.

“With Donald Trump announcing his 2024 presidential campaign, Chicagoans are wondering if Willie Wilson will once again become a strong supporter of Donald Trump,” Lightfoot campaign spokeswoman Christina Freundlich wrote Thursday. “While Mayor Lightfoot has spent the last few years opposing Donald Trump, Chicagoans deserve to know if Willie Wilson will continue his long record of support for Trump and his campaign over the next two years.”

On Friday, Wilson responded to a question about how he felt about the former president — who is deeply unpopular with Chicago voters — by dismissing it as unrelated to the municipal election.

“Let’s put it this way: I’m running for office – when are the presidential elections?” Wilson asked the reporters, who responded “2024.” “I am running for mayor of the city of Chicago. I will not allow myself to enter this zone.’

Wilson also attacked Lightfoot’s record on crime control and COVID-19 on Friday: “Mayor Lightfoot is a joke. … She let the whole community down. This is a joke. How can you talk about the situation with the president when all the people are dying?

“I’m not going there,” Wilson concluded. “You’re asking me if I love Mr. Trump or if I love President Joe Biden? I love them all. And I will work to do everything that will benefit people.”



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