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updated: 7/26/2013 5:21 PM

Quinn to OK controversial Lake County voting plan

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  • Willard Helander

      Willard Helander

  • Terry Link

      Terry Link

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn is planning to sign legislation Saturday that would take elections duties away from the Lake County Clerk, a new law that has created a local political uproar.

The sweeping new law also will allow for the first time Illinoisans to register to vote online.

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The change in Lake County has been particularly controversial as politicians from both parties have praised Clerk Willard Helander and have questioned why election authority would be yanked from her control without voters' approval. Under the new plan, voting would be managed by a five-member panel that the county has to set up soon after the law takes effect.

State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat and chairman of the county party, has claimed the idea wasn't his, so the origin of the measure tucked into omnibus elections legislation remains a mystery.

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

Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said the new law could cost the county more than $700,000 in new staff costs, in addition to upfront expenses for printing and other office needs.

He said the county hasn't closed the door on a legal challenge. Typically when election panels are set up, voters in the county make that decision.

"We're still looking at our options," Lawlor said.

Word that Quinn would sign the legislation came via a tweet from Cook County Clerk David Orr's office. Orr has backed the plan because online registration could help get more people signed up and able to vote.

"This is really great," Orr said. "There are so many people who do everything this way."

Orr said registering voters online will be easier for his staff, too, and probably save money. County clerks will still have to check information sent in by would-be voters and authenticate it before a registration is complete, Orr said.

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