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Woman charged with illegal voting in 2012 election

Patrici'Patsy' Pedersen 57 was arrested Aug. 28 charge thshe voted illegally November 2012 presidential election. Pedersen who cast ballot Antioch

Patricia "Patsy" Pedersen, 57, was arrested on Aug. 28, on a charge that she voted illegally in the November 2012 presidential election. Pedersen, who cast a ballot in Antioch Township, where she lived for more than three decades before divorce proceedings,  said she was temporarily renting a condo in Walworth County, Wis. | Judy Masterson/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 11, 2013 6:13AM

A disabled former Antioch resident alleges that political harassment and a bitter divorce are behind her recent arrest for alleged illegal voting in the Nov. 6, 2012, presidential election.

Patricia “Patsy” Pedersen was charged on Aug. 30 with violating Illinois Election Code after casting an early ballot on Oct. 26, 2012, in Antioch Township while living — she says temporarily — in Wisconsin. The charge, a Class A misdemeanor, carries a possible sentence of probation, a fine or imprisonment.

“It was my duty to vote,” said Pedersen, 57, who said she’s living on a disability check after a diagnosis for multiple sclerosis, ischemic attacks and other health issues. “I may never vote again.”

Pedersen’s home of 35 years on Lake Marie was sold after her divorce from Brian Pedersen in 2012. She has been homeless since, she said, staying in short-term rentals or with friends while the divorce case was appealed.

“I’ve always had the intention of returning to my home,” Pedersen said. “But I need an attorney to ‘claw’ it back.”

The former couple owned Pedersen Marine, 840 Route 173, a boat-slip business in Antioch. But after the contentious divorce, Pedersen said she discovered that her husband, with whom she opened the business in 1989 had removed her name as owner and shareholder and reincorporated, using the same address, under the name Pedersen Marina 2.

Pedersen said she called the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office in June to ask for an investigation into alleged “embezzlement” by her husband. She was told by an investigator, she claims, that the office would look into the allegation if she came in to answer questions about her voting record.

Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim said he was “ethically prohibited” from discussing the charge against Pedersen in the absence of a Gerstein hearing, a preliminary hearing for reviewing whether probable cause exists to detain an arrestee. Pedersen turned herself in and was released on a recognizance bond.

Nerheim said he received a few complaints of illegal voting after his election — a race in which he ran as a Republican − also on Nov. 6, 2012. Pedersen, a Democrat, said she voted against Nerheim but “more importantly, for Obama.”

“We get a few complaints after every election cycle,” Nerheim said. “We investigate them and if there are charges, we charge.”

Nerheim said his office is prosecuting two such cases.

“The facts will come out in court,” Nerheim said. “I can assure you, it’s not political.”

Patricia Pedersen’s former in-laws are generous campaign contributors, having given nearly $35,000 over the past decade to the Lake County Republican Central Committee and various Republican candidates, according to the State Board of Elections Contributions List.

Brian Pedersen, who could not be reached for comment, is listed as president of Pedersen Marine Inc. on the Secretary of State Web site, where the company is reported as ‘not in good standing.” A hold has been put on the account for back taxes, said Sue Hofer, with the The Illinois Department of Revenue.

Shannon Pedersen, a daughter, is listed as president of Pedersen Marina 2, incorporated Sept. 16, 2012. Shannon said in an interview that she is estranged from her mother and that Pedersen Marine is operating out of a P.O. box, but declined further comment.

Patricia Pedersen said she was advised by the clerk in Walworth County, where she entered into a short-term condo rental on Oct. 1, 2012, to vote in Illinois.

“I explained I was bouncing around until my appeal was over and I get my house back,” Pedersen said.

Lake County Clerk Willard Helander’s Office also advised voting in her usual precinct, Pedersen claims, given that she hadn’t changed the address on her driver’s license or vehicle registration.

Helander did not return a call seeking comment.

The state Election Code stipulates that a voter must live in their election “district” for 30 days prior to an election.

But election law attorney Adam Lasker of Chicago said the statute “does not talk about what it means to reside in.” He cited the unanimous 2011 Illinois Supreme Court ruling upholding Rahm Emanuel’s claim to residency in Chicago, despite the fact that he rented out his home while serving as President Obama’s chief of staff in Washington, D.C.

“You’re allowed to have more than one abode but only one legal residency, which is determined mostly by your intent,” Lasker said. “Emanuel rented his home but he knew he was coming back.”

Pedersen is due back in court Sept. 26.

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