Lake County officials oppose election legislation
Lake County Board members on both sides of the political aisle are opposing state legislation that will strip oversight of elections from the county clerk's office.
Taking a stand during a county committee meeting Wednesday morning in Waukegan, Democrats and Republicans alike blasted the measure, which was part of a much larger election package that was hastily approved by the General Assembly last week and is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature.
Officials also pledged to lobby Quinn to veto the section of the bill that would mandate the creation of an independent election commission in Lake County -- and only Lake County.
"We're not rolling over at all," County Administrator Barry Burton said. "We think this has a chance."
The one-paragraph amendment that targets Lake County was proposed by Democratic state Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park. But many in the room for Wednesday's revenue, records and legislation committee meeting blamed state Sen. Terry Link for the proposal.
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. He's denied involvement, however.
Few in the room seemed to believe him.
"Let's not be foolish enough to think that a senator from another county put this together," said Linda Pedersen, an Antioch Republican.
Grayslake Democrat Pat Carey blamed Link, too.
"We know who did this," Carey said. "In my mind, it's politics at its worst."
The legislation gives Chief Judge Fred Foreman the power to choose five people to comprise the election commission. Ostensibly, it will have a staff and offices.
Those elements are expected to cost the county between $500,000 and $700,000, Assistant County Administrator Ryan Waller said.
According to the state's proposal, the county board will control funding for the office but won't oversee its operation.
During Wednesday's meeting, county board member Bonnie Thomson Carter asked if it was possible to provide no money for the office. She also urged officials to consider suing the General Assembly if Quinn signs the bill.
"Somebody needs to stand up and try it," the Ingleside Republican said. "Somebody needs to get the attention."
County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor plans to present a resolution opposing the legislation to the full county board for a vote Tuesday, June 11. He hopes to have the support of all 21 members.
"We want to go on record, clearly, about this," said Lawlor, a Vernon Hills Republican.
Not everyone in the room was ready to charge the Capitol over the proposal.
North Chicago Democrat Audrey Nixon repeatedly wondered aloud about why the amendment was added to the legislation, insisting lawmakers typically have "some kind of reason" for presenting bills.
No one had an answer for her.
County Clerk Willard Helander sat in the audience during Wednesday's discussion and was mostly silent. When asked if she had something to add, Helander cried as she spoke about the employees who may lose their jobs because of the proposal.
"They're good people and they need to hear from you," Helander told the commissioners.