A Chicago woman filed at least 10 fake voter registration cards in Lake County before last fall's election, prosecutors said Monday.
Jeannette Sims, 46, of the 700 block of North Ridgeway Avenue, is charged with mutilation of election materials and faces up to three years in prison.
Sims was working with a voter-registration drive sponsored by the Service Employees International Union when she submitted the falsified cards, said Assistant State's Attorney Christen Bishop.
Union officials cooperated with investigators, State's Attorney Michael Waller said. No one else is facing charges, he said.
In the weeks leading up to the election, more than 1,000 suspicious cards had been discovered by employees of the Lake County Clerk's office, which oversees elections and checks such documents for validity. Some were submitted with Lake County addresses that didn't exist, while others were for people who didn't live at the addresses given, County Clerk Willard Helander announced in mid-October.
The discovery prompted a criminal investigation by the county sheriff's office and the state's attorney's office, which found suspicious cards submitted by Sims, Bishop said. Handwriting samples and 10 of those cards were sent to a handwriting expert for analysis in late October, Waller said. After the Nov. 4 election, the expert determined all 10 had been filled out by Sims, and had fake addresses listed, prosecutors said.
The clerk's discovery also led to an Oct. 28 lawsuit by local Republican leaders who sought to stop the Election Day counting of ballots cast by anyone named on the 1,000 or so suspicious registration cards.
The suit, which eventually proved unsuccessful, requested such ballots to be segregated and counted two weeks after the election.
The lawsuit targeted a Chicago group called Citizen Action/Illinois and a specific worker. No charges have been brought against that worker or the group.
Representatives of the organization denied wrongdoing at the time.
Republican scrutiny over voter registrations wasn't limited to Lake County last year. The GOP targeted registrations from the community organizing group ACORN in several states expected to have close races in the presidential contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.
Democratic and ACORN officials called it a tactic to suppress voter turnout.
Dan Venturi, leader of the Lake County Republican organization and one of the plaintiffs in the voter-registration lawsuit, said he was glad the state's attorney's office followed through on the case.
"It's a very serious matter," Venturi said. "If you don't have integrity in the election system, then democracy fails."
Sims appeared before Associate Judge Raymond Collins on Monday after surrendering on the charge, Bishop said.
Sims was released from jail Monday afternoon after posting 10 percent of a $10,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in court April 30.
She could not be reached for comment.