Elections and voter outreach at issue in Kane County clerk race

Elections and voter outreach are among the top issues in the race for Kane County Clerk where longtime Republican incumbent John "Jack" Cunningham faces a challenge from Democrat and political newcomer Nicolas "Nico" Jimenez.

Cunningham, 83, is seeking his sixth term as county clerk. Jimenez, 31, believes it's time for new blood to serve in that role.

The county clerk's office oversees elections, keeps vital records such as birth and death certificates, and files the budgets and levies for all taxing bodies.

Both men said they would focus on adding a satellite office in Elgin and updating voting equipment in their responses to a Daily Herald candidate questionnaire.

Cunningham, an Aurora resident, points to his tenure as clerk and accomplishments such as opening a satellite office in Aurora and a voters outreach program that has led more than half of all voters to vote early in general elections in Kane County.

Jimenez, a quality assurance manager for a candy company, says it's the current political climate that has led to an increase in voting, not the voter outreach efforts by the clerk's office.

"My belief is that the current program does not engage with people enough to have any substantive effect," said Jimenez, who lives in Geneva.

He added he would use community events, forums, town halls and social media to get voters involved in elections. He said he also would work to improve election security and upgrade to a paper ballot and optical scan voting system. Jimenez said that while being fiscally responsible, he would make better use of the county clerk's budget to make upgrades to equipment, improve voter outreach and open a satellite office in Elgin.

During his primary campaign, Cunningham also said he wanted to open a satellite office in Elgin. As county clerk, Cunningham said he has improved election security and most recently added cameras in the vote-by-mail processing room to help track ballots.

"I have worked diligently to have secure and transparent elections," Cunningham said.

Cunningham noted he has increased revenues from $600,000 annually when he first took office 20 years ago to more than $1.55 million each year, and he touted improvements to the vote-by-mail system. He said he has saved money by eliminating managerial positions, cross-training staff and taking over Aurora elections operations.

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