Lake County Board asks Quinn to veto election legislation

Lake County commissioners on Tuesday formally opposed state legislation that would strip oversight of elections from the county clerk's office.

They voiced their objections with a resolution asking Gov. Pat Quinn to veto the provision, which mandates the creation of a five-member election commission in Lake County — and nowhere else.

The one-paragraph amendment to a much bigger election bill was proposed by Democratic state Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park. It quickly sailed through the Senate and House.

Some commissioners and lawmakers have blamed state Sen. Terry Link for the recommendation. Link, a Waukegan Democrat who leads his party's organization in Lake County, was the only senator from Lake County to vote for the proposal.

County Clerk Willard Helander is a Republican. Link has denied involvement.

At Tuesday's county board meeting, Republicans and Democrats alike voted to send the veto request to Quinn. The lone commissioner who opposed the move was North Chicago Democrat Audrey Nixon.

Waukegan Democrat Mary Ross Cunningham was the only board member who spoke about the resolution. She said she opposes the legislation because of the potential impact on employees of the clerk's office.

“I don't want to see nobody losing their jobs,” Cunningham said.

In response, Helander said she doesn't know how legislation will affect her staff.

One audience member spoke in favor of the election commission concept.

Clyde McLemore, a former candidate for the North Shore Sanitary District board, said errors made by the clerk's office during the 2012 election may have cost him the race.

Running elections may be an “overburden on the clerk's office,” McLemore said.

Helander didn't respond to the remark.

If Quinn signs the bill, the legislation will give Chief Judge Fred Foreman the power to choose the election commission's members. Two Republicans, two Democrats will serve on the commission, as well as a fifth member from any political party.

Ostensibly, the commission will have a staff and offices. Those elements are expected to cost the county between $500,000 and $700,000, officials have said.

Quinn has said he supports the election bill.

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