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Election commission keeps Ross, removes Alexander from PPS District 150 school board ballot

Peoria Public Schools District 150 Board of Education president Martha Ross, left, looks on as challenger Keisha Alexander, right, consults with her attorney during a hearing of the Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners on Tuesday.
Joe Deacon
Peoria Public Schools District 150 Board of Education president Martha Ross, left, looks on as challenger Keisha Alexander, right, consults with her attorney during a hearing Tuesday of the Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners.

Barring a successful appeal, only one name will appear on the April ballot for the District 1 seat on the Peoria Public Schools Board of Education.

A pair of decisions Tuesday by the Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners came down in favor of current District 150 president Martha Ross, upholding her candidacy while invalidating the nominating papers filed by challenger Keisha Alexander.

“It feels justified because I’ve worked very hard to stay focused on what the kids need,” said Ross. “It was justified, but it doesn’t feel good to make anybody feel bad. That wasn’t my intention; it was all legal.”

Ross’ objection to Alexander’s nomination was upheld when the board struck 139 petition signatures, leaving Alexander 11 names shy of the required 200.

The commissioners then unanimously sided with Ross in dismissing a challenge filed by Chama St. Louis, Alexander’s daughter and campaign manager. The board agreed that St. Louis lacked legal standing to object to Ross’ nomination because she does not live in PPS District 1.

St. Louis called the decisions “disgusting” and “despicable.”

“I’m very upset. I have no faith in this election board. I feel like they were skewed toward Martha, and my mom didn't deserve this,” said St. Louis, noting they plan to appeal. “I will be running a campaign against what just happened today, so I will be screaming from the rooftops about this.”

Ross, who has served on the District 150 school board since 2001, said she had never before faced a challenge to her nomination.

“Throughout my entire tenure as a volunteer servant in this community, I have stood for fairness, equality, and effective foundational change to serve our families and children,” said Ross. “Every action I have taken has been done with integrity and with the spirit of excellence.”

One of the claims in St. Louis’ objection to Ross’ petitions alleged the paperwork included signatures from at least one dead person. Ross admitted the filing included the name of the late Rev. Alphonso Lyons Jr., but said she believed the signature was forged and that her campaign put Lyons’ name on the deletion page once they discovered it.

“I believe that someone deliberately did that in order to make me look bad,” said Ross. “I would never put his name on a petition deliberately, and I’m making a public apology to the Lyons family because I don't want them to think that I would do something like that for a political ploy.”

In the hearing on Alexander’s nomination, both sides stipulated to striking 82 signatures that the Election Commission determined were invalid. The argument before the board came down to six pages with discrepancies in how the circulator and notary sections were completed.

Alexander’s attorney claimed the mistakes were simply clerical errors that didn’t necessitate invalidating each entire page. The board unanimously disagreed, striking another 57 signatures and leaving Alexander 11 names shy of the required 200.

Board chairman James Manning said he was “troubled by the discrepancies” and that they resulted in a “fatal flaw.”

St. Louis said Alexander will campaign as a write-in candidate if their appeals are not granted in an effort to make sure Ross is not re-elected.

“I will be letting people know that she's (Ross) dishonest, she lacks integrity, and she doesn't deserve to be in a position on a school board, or as school board president.”

Ross said she decided to challenge Alexander’s nomination after learning of St. Louis’ challenge to her candidacy and the allegations it contained.

“I feel somewhat vindicated because I felt before like a victim and I’m not going to be a victim,” said Ross. “It's just not right to slander someone's name like that.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.