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Campaigner arrested at Forest Park polls

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A campaign volunteer was arrested at the Forest Park polls Tuesday, and charged with criminal trespass.

David Reed, a political activist working for the Avery Wilson campaign, was arrested by Forest Park Police after he ignored warnings about campaigning within 150 feet of the voting booths, Maj. Chris Matson said.

"He was told to leave, over the course of the day, three times," Matson said. "He was advised that if he didn't leave, he would go to jail. He said he would be back with the media and he would go to jail. He came back. He didn't have any media with him, but he did go to jail."

Reed was allegedly talking to poll workers and voters in the 150-foot, campaign-free zone. Matson said Reed arrived shortly after the polls opened, and was asked to leave by the election superintendent. He returned around noon, and was asked to leave by the police officer providing security at the election.

He returned again around 4 p.m., and was again asked to leave. He returned a fourth time a little before 7 p.m., and was arrested on the misdemeanor charge of trespassing.

"We gave him every chance," Matson said. "He came back with the intention of being arrested and we arrested him."

Reed could not be reached for comment.

The election, held Tuesday, was decided by six votes in favor of Wilson's opponent, Linda Lord. The two were competing, in the run-off election, to fill the city council seat left vacant by Lord's late husband, Wes, who died in June. Linda Lord won with 95 votes, over Wilson's 89 tallied votes. She will fill her husband's seat for the remaining two and a half months of the term, and will then face re-election.

Wilson asked for a recount immediately after the polls closed. He alluded to "discrepancies" in the vote counting, but did not give specifics.

Reed, working to get Wilson elected, was asked to leave because he was violating election rules, said Sandra Norwood, the city's election superintendent.

"He was talking to the poll workers and the voters," she said. "That was not ethical and they're not allowed to do any campaigning within 150 feet."

Norwood said the integrity of the election was upheld because Reed was thrown out.

Wilson was at the poling place when Reed was arrested, and said Reed had the right to be where he was.

"He was not doing anything wrong," Wilson said. According to Wilson, Reed was "a friend of the campaign," but the candidate didn't know where Reed was going to be campaigning on election day.

City Manager John Parker said the police and the election workers did their jobs, upholding the integrity of the election.

"They are empowered by their offices to make sure that interruptions do not occur and undue influence from any of the candidates or anyone else is not allowed," Parker said. The city manager wasn't at the polling place, and said he didn't know, first hand, if any "undue influence" happened, but he supported the election superintendent.

Norwood said Reed was, in at least one conversation, arguing with poll workers about absentee ballots. Some absentee ballots were rejected, because they were improperly signed or were improperly posted in the mail.

Wilson said Wednesday that those ballots made the difference in the election.

"We didn't get it done, but we still think we'll get it done in November," he said.

Lord, Wilson and a third candidate, Roy Lunsford, will likely vie for the seat in an election on Nov. 6.