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updated: 10/4/2016 4:15 PM

Naperville Republicans hosting spring primary to make election 'open'

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Republican voters in Naperville Township should mark their calendars for Feb. 28, 2017, when they can head to the polls for a primary election.

The Naperville Township Republican Organization decided to hold a primary next year instead of a caucus to choose candidates for positions before the April 4 election. Seats included in the primary are for supervisor, clerk, assessor, highway commissioner and four township trustees.

Carl Schultz, Naperville Township Republican chairman, said the group chose to buck its recent trend of slating candidates through a caucus because a primary will allow all interested voters to get involved.

"I think it's a very positive move," Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra said. "It shows the organization's commitment to transparency, accountability and ensuring all the voters have access."

With a caucus, state-mandated to take place during a gathering on a certain night, Schultz said "there's a lot of people that are excluded -- not maliciously, but by fact."

Military members or college students or anyone who happens to be out of town on caucus night wouldn't be able to participate, Schultz said. Neither would anyone in the hospital or unable to access the caucus site.

The decision comes at a time when Naperville Township is the subject of political discussions about government consolidation -- either by managing road district operations through agreements with other entities or by potentially eliminating townships themselves.

"Given some of the local issues regarding townships, we thought we should broaden (the candidate selection process) and make it as open to the entire community as possible," Schultz said. "It gives voters the best opportunity to weigh in on what's going on."

What's going on, Schultz and Ossyra say, is really a discussion about "modernizing government." The discussion could mean more people will want to be involved as candidates.

If there is broader interest, Naperville Township Highway Commissioner Stan Wojtasiak said hosting a primary is a good move. It allows anyone to gather signatures, get their name on the ballot and run -- without having to be a party insider.

"It opens up the field to anybody who has any interest," Wojtasiak said.

The Republican organization is encouraging anyone who wants to run for a township position to review the 2017 candidate's guide from the Illinois State Board of Elections. Prospective candidates must file nominating petitions between Nov. 21 and 28.

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