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posted: 6/5/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: A local mistake the governor can fix

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

If you're ever looking for an object lesson in what's wrong in Springfield, you'll be hard pressed to find a better candidate than the impending Lake County Election Commission. Consider a few facts about this bureaucratic boondoggle:

• It was created under a definition that could apply to only one place in Illinois.

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• It was created without any public discussion of whether there is a need for it.

• It was created by legislative fiat rather than by discussion and participation of the people of Lake County, who will have no say in its makeup and will have to pay any additional costs it may require. (And was created next to language allowing voters in some smaller counties, not lawmakers, to decide whether they want an election commission.)

• It was created in just two paragraphs of a 217-page Senate amendment to a massive House bill whose centerpiece is online voter registration but that is otherwise so nebulous as to touch on everything from nomination of lieutenant governor candidates to selection of local school board members.

• It was created almost without debate in the crush of activity three days before the end of the legislative session.

• It is a clear unfunded state mandate -- an agency that will incur at least the potential cost of its five members' salaries and expenses, if not additional operational expenses when duties are removed from the auspices of the county clerk.

• Its author, whoever it is, won't even stand up to be identified. Waukegan Democratic Sen. Terry Link -- the only Lake County senator to support the commission -- says he didn't write it. Grayslake Democratic Sen. Melinda Bush voted against it, as did all Republican senators from Lake County. Sen. Don Harmon, the Oak Park Democrat who sponsored the amendment, didn't return our call, and when asked on the floor about why the board would be created by lawmakers instead of voters, would say only that it "appears to be the political will."

To spring an unjustified layer of government on an unsuspecting locality is the political will? Honestly, if the creation of this monstrosity doesn't turn your stomach, you have no stomach to turn. Stuffed within a wide-ranging set of changes to the Election Code, the commission easily made its way to the governor via two bodies -- first, the Senate, then the House -- whose members may well fit that description, having dealt with such repugnant, foul-smelling chicanery so often they've come to consider it acceptable strategy.

But there is some faint hope. For, Gov. Patrick Quinn, who fashions himself a populist and has shown resolve on such issues as pensions and casinos, has an option. Although he has already expressed support for the overall bill and promised to sign it into law, he could use his amendatory veto to excise this rank tumor and force lawmakers at least to show where they stand on imposing unfunded, unnecessary layers of government on local municipalities through undebated orders hidden in sweeping, multifaceted legislation. Will he?

Governor, we call on you again to show courage in the interest of governmental decency and ethics. At least, let the people of Lake County decide whether their elections are being mishandled. Trust us, it will make your stomach -- and many others in Lake County and elsewhere -- feel a whole lot better.

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