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updated: 11/19/2012 12:12 PM

Candidate filing opens for February primaries

One election just rolls into another in suburbs

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Just when you thought election season was over, another is under way.

Would-be candidates throughout the suburbs already are circulating petitions to vie for spots on municipal, school, park, library and township boards.

And today, Elgin, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Schaumburg and other communities that could have a February primary begin their weeklong filing period for city councils and village boards. That's just 13 days after the exhausting national election.

"We're not even done with the last election yet," said McHenry County Clerk Katherine Schultz, adding that counties must wait until Nov. 20 for absentee ballots to arrive by mail before the Nov. 6 election results can become official.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said wrapping up one election while dealing with the start of the next is just another aspect of the state's system of electing politicians.

"We're required to balance several balls at the same time," Orr said. "It really is a squeeze, but we just have to do these things."

The Illinois State Board of Elections started getting calls from people interested in seeking local government positions weeks before the nation re-elected President Barack Obama.

"It's constantly busy around here," said Jim Tenuto, the board's assistant executive director.

The filing period for most candidates in the April 9 election runs from Dec. 17 to Dec. 24. Election officials agree that the number of candidates expected to emerge during that week will be enormous.

With more than 7,000 units of local government in Illinois, Tenuto said, "that creates a lot of races."

The sheer number of elected positions -- and the list of candidates hoping to fill them -- means that counties must print various combinations of ballots.

"That's one of the reasons why April is our most complicated election," Orr said.

And the complexity doesn't change even though voter turnout is expected to plummet when compared to the presidential election.

Schultz, for example, is predicting voter turnout in McHenry County to be about 22 percent for the April election. It was 66 percent for the national election.

"It doesn't matter how many voters turn out," she said. "The work is still the same."

Meanwhile, the April election is forcing some local government entities to staff their offices on an unexpected day: Christmas Eve.

Unless state lawmakers intervene, those agencies will need to spend taxpayer money on overtime and holiday pay on Dec. 24 -- the last day candidates can file to run in the April election.

"It's still in effect," Tenuto said of the Dec. 24 requirement. "There's talk about the legislature addressing it in the veto session. But nobody seems to know if that's going to happen. And if they do remedy it, how's it going to change?"

Orr said he's "pretty hopeful" that the date, set automatically by state law, will be changed.

"The legislature now is sensitive to it," he said. "I talked with (House Majority Leader) Barbara Flynn Currie two days ago, and I know they're trying."

So will election officials get an extended break once the final vote is counted in April?

Not really. By the summer, they will be turning their attention to the March 2014 primary.

"It doesn't really slow down," said Joe Sobecki, assistant executive director of the DuPage County Election Commission. "It changes, because off time after the April election is when we go and plan for the next round of elections."

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