Breaking News Bar
posted: 5/29/2013 6:35 PM

Elections legislation spawns Lake County political battle

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Dan Duffy

      Dan Duffy

  • Aaron Lawlor

      Aaron Lawlor

  • Terry Link

      Terry Link

 
 

A political dispute over the future of elections in Lake County has consumed top officials, as its top Democrat favors turning voting control over to a new board and a bipartisan collection of other leaders is pushing back hard.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday approved lengthy statewide elections legislation that emerged this week. Tucked inside is a plan that would take away election supervision from County Clerk Willard Helander and create a five-member board to handle voting.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat and chairman of the Lake County party, denied the idea was his.

"I know I'm getting blamed for it," Link said. "But I'm used to that."

Link argues having a commission approved by the county's head judge would take politics out of the elections process. The county clerk is elected on a partisan ballot, and Helander is a Republican.

"If it was up to me, you'd have a board of elections for any county," Link said.

County board Chairman Aaron Lawlor opposes the plan, and other officials are suspicious that the legislation itself is political.

State Rep. JoAnn Osmond, an Antioch Republican, called the legislation "insulting." She pointed out Helander was the first clerk in the state to push touch-screen voting, after the hanging-chad snafu of the 2000 presidential election.

"It's a little bit suspicious as to why we're being singled out," Osmond said.

The Senate approved the bill by a 32-20 vote, sending the legislation to the Illinois House. Link voted for it, and the rest of Lake County's delegation voted against it.

"We already have too many layers of government in the state of Illinois," said State Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat.

During the debate, state Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, was asked why the board would be created by lawmakers and not by voters, as Illinois election commissions typically are.

"That seems to be the political will," Harmon said.

State Sen. Dan Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican, disagreed and argued a new board could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Lake County and the leaders are adamantly opposed to this," Duffy said.

Link said it's up to the county board to decide how much the board will get paid, so the costs might be manageable.

How the idea will fare in the House is unclear. The legislation is far bigger than the Lake County provision and would allow for online registration of voters.

State Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, said she didn't know what inspired the legislation. She said Helander "does an excellent job" overseeing elections and admitted being surprised when the proposal surfaced.

Sente said she isn't fond of legislation that only targets one office or government agency. as this does.

"This is not my bill," Sente said. "I would not have proposed it."

Lawmakers are scheduled to finish their annual session Friday, so a House vote could come soon.

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here