By the time the full Kane County Board meets in April there might be as many as eight elected officials in the room who qualify as dead men walking from a political point of view.
Slashing the size of the 26-member board will be the first issue members of a redistricting task force will tackle. The task force agreed Tuesday determining the size of the board must come before any maps reapportioning the county's population into right-sized districts. With an average district population of about 20,000 people, about half the board would see their districts grow to balance out the representation even without trimming any of the 26 seats. County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay told board members she doesn't want to hear any griping about the extra work that comes with representing a larger district.
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"Some of you are approaching 30,000 residents (in your district) and you seem to be doing just fine," McConnaughay said. "I don't think it's a burden or compromises your ability to represent a particular constituency."
One particular constituency the task force will pay attention to are Hispanics and other minority groups. Census numbers show the county's minority population grew 7 percentage points in the past 10 years. More than 30 percent of Kane County is black and Hispanic. Those residents, particularly Hispanics, are clustered in mostly Aurora, Elgin and Dundee townships (including the main cities in each). That means the task force will pay special attention to districts representing those areas to not draw boundary lines that dilute the Hispanic vote and fuel a discrimination lawsuit.
Fear of the courts stepping in will also likely eliminate a possible move to multi-member districts. Such districts tend to be much larger than the current districts and are generally believed to unfairly block minority representation, county board attorney Ken Shepro said.
"Moving to multi-member districts is basically inviting a lawsuit," Shepro said. However, that issue is still on the table. It will be decided early in the redistricting process along with the size of the board. Even before that, the task force will issue a request to board members to declare if they intend to seek re-election. Some task force members, at the suggestion of McConnaughay, indicated their desire to target those seats for possible cuts first so as not to put a colleague out of office against his or her will. However, therein may be the first battle in deciding which seats to cut.
"The number of districts we have should not be based on who's running or not running," county board member Jim Mitchell said. Mitchell, of North Aurora, along with Hollie Lindgren, of Carpentersville, are the only board members who've publicly committed to not seeking another term. "The decision should be based on fair representation. Our criteria should be based on what best serves the voting public."
Mitchell has already said he doesn't believe his seat should be eliminated. Lindgren said the task force should take a hard look at her district for major changes.
"There's not going to be any major population growth in my district," Lindgren said.
The task force will take public input at a meeting slated for 6 p.m. March 29.