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posted: 10/10/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Reconsider separate election boards

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

We've been scratching our heads for months about a state law of mysterious origins that requires Lake County to take election duties away from the county clerk and create a new election commission to handle them.

Now that we've seen an analysis of the costs, we're also wondering why DuPage County, Aurora and Chicago keep separate election commissions instead of merging election duties into their respective county clerks' offices.

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In DuPage County, the lone collar county with an election commission, splitting off those election tasks costs taxpayers 41 percent more than what Lake County pays now, Daily Herald staff writer Jake Griffin noted in an analysis of those expenses on Wednesday.

That's $1.6 million more a year for DuPage County's separate election commission and county clerk's office vs. Lake County's clerk's office, which handles elections among its other duties.

DuPage County has significantly more residents and more registered voters than Lake County, which no doubt accounts for part of that dollar difference. Still, it's pretty clear that the extra election commission costs taxpayers extra money.

A report commissioned by DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin said as much, noting "overlap of administrative roles" between other countywide offices and the election commission.

Since then, the DuPage Election Commission has been cutting back its budget. We think it's time for Cronin and the county board to consider looking at ways to cut the commission out instead. The same is true in Aurora, and Chicago is worth a look, too.

After all, it's hard to find much argument in defense of election commissions. Lake County doesn't want one at all. The county board is suing to keep from having to create a commission, which was mandated in a coda tucked into a broader state election law last spring. No state lawmaker has owned up to being behind that heavy-handed meddling in Lake County business.

State Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills and state Sen. Pamela Althoff of McHenry, both Republican, have introduced bills to repeal the provision creating the new commission, and it's time for more local lawmakers to sign on.

Cronin acknowledges the importance of the DuPage Election Commission's bipartisanship in ensuring fair elections. That is a valid consideration, but it implies that elections where there are no separate commissions are prone to being unfair, which we haven't seen.

DuPage County, Aurora and Chicago didn't ask to get drawn into this flap that originated in Springfield and targeted Lake County.

But now that the cost comparison is out, it seems like there's no contest.

Lake County leaders see no need to have an election commission, and the others that have one should take a good look at whether they can do without it, too.

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