Higher costs expected for April election, DuPage clerk warns

Spring municipal elections are usually less expensive for DuPage County than presidential elections in the fall because of lower voter turnout.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has DuPage election officials expecting higher-than-normal costs for the April 2021 election.

So while County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek plans to reduce spending in next the fiscal year, she says her election division still will need a budget of $5.07 million. The request is roughly $1.4 million more than what was budgeted for the election division in fiscal 2019, the last time there was a consolidated election.

"In the election realm specifically, this is a budget year like no other, due to uncertainty related to the degree that election administration requirements will continue to be impacted by COVID-19 along with the availability, or lack thereof, of additional funding from the state and federal governments," Kaczmarek told county board members this week.

While consolidated elections are less expensive than presidential elections because of lower turnout, Kaczmarek said "it seems likely that COVID-19 mitigation will require additional costs above and beyond those required under normal circumstances."

She said the 2021 budget request for the election division "reflects this reality" and offers "our best current estimate of what the costs might be." But she acknowledges "circumstances have changed dramatically over the past six months and will likely continue to change in the coming months."

County board members are meeting with elected officials and department heads to work on DuPage's next budget that takes effect Dec. 1.

Kaczmarek also wants roughly $1.1 million in fiscal 2021 to fund the traditional part of the clerk's office, which sends out property tax bills and handles documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates. That amount is slightly more than it is receiving this year.

No decision was made on Kaczmarek's spending request.

Kaczmarek pointed out that her budget proposal doesn't include a request for money to replace the county's voting system.

"We believe that the purchase of a new voting system should be considered as a possible purchase using federal funds," she said, "whether from the county's existing CARES Act allocation or any additional money that may come out of the currently ongoing negotiations in Washington."

If funding becomes available, Kaczmarek said she would like to meet with county board members to discuss options on how to upgrade DuPage's voting equipment.

"Meanwhile, our office will continue moving forward on both the administration of the ongoing election as well as the fulfillment of the county clerk's many other statutory duties," she said.

Chairman Dan Cronin is scheduled to present his proposed county budget to the board in September. He will consider information from the budget discussions when drafting the overall spending plan.

County board members have until Nov. 30 to approve a budget for the 2021 fiscal year.

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