The question of where Shajan Kuriakose really lives is now in the Illinois courts. Zehra Quadri’s challenge to Kuriakose’s residency is in the latest stage of a long, strange journey that may warrant an even higher-level investigation into backroom deals and the extent of political shenanigans in Chicago’s electoral process.
As I understand it, there is very strong evidence that Kuriakose does not live in the 50th Ward, including his official voting record. He voted from another ward as recently as last March, after allegedly moving to the 50th Ward the previous January. In signing his ballot application in March, Kuriakose swore that he lived at the address shown on the application, which is not in the 50th Ward. His vote was cast more than 30 days after he allegedly moved to the Albany address where he claims he’s lived since January 2014. He did not cast a Grace Period Ballot or a Provisional Ballot. He has never voted in the 50th Ward.
After multiple hearings stretching over several weeks, Kuriakose was unable to produce a lease for the apartment he claims he rents in the 50th Ward. Some of his neighbors on Albany say they’ve never seen him, and some of them say he didn’t move in until last September. They’ve signed affidavits. His electric bill on Albany is not only less than $5 per month, but also less than the electric bill at his downtown condo. Yet the Board certified Kuriakose as a resident of the 50th Ward.
This seemed powerful strange to me so I called the Chicago Board of Elections about a FOIA request to obtain records of its hearings on the residency challenge. I was told that the Board had no records, that the transcripts of the hearings were held by independent court reporters, and that I would have to contact them for transcripts. I did so, and learned that FOIA requests would not apply, that transcripts would have to be paid for, and that evidence against Kuriakose presented as exhibits during the hearings might not be included.
Think about that for a moment: The Board decides who is qualified to be on the ballot. The Board decides residency issues. The Board evaluates evidence in residency challenges. There is no free, accessible public record of these deliberations.
The Board overruled the evidence contained in its own records? The Board ignored affidavits from people living in the same building who say he doesn’t live there? The Board overlooked his not having a lease? I heard that his proof of residency was an affidavit from a friend who helped him move in. The Board accepted this?
Something’s very wrong with this picture. Quadri is right to want it exposed.