Number of DuPage polling places reduced

Posted10/18/2013 4:26 PM

As part of an ongoing effort to cut costs, the DuPage Election Commission has approved plans to eliminate 71 polling places countywide.

By scaling back the total number of polling places to 262, the agency that organizes and executes all of the elections in DuPage is expected to save taxpayers more than $1 million over the next four years.

"We're continuing to reform," said Cathy Ficker Terrill, chairwoman of the election board that oversees the commission. "We're looking to be more frugal with government resources."

The $1.08 million in total savings includes a $400,000 reduction in the cost of Election Day staffing and a $350,000 reduction in the cost of warehouse space.

While the average number of voters using each site will climb to 2,187 from 1,705, county officials say the consolidation won't negatively affect the voting experience.

Terrill said voters will have a better experience because the sites will have more parking and easier building access.

The reduction of polling places is the latest in a series of cost-saving measures the commission has implemented since county board Chairman Dan Cronin launched the DuPage ACT (Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency) Initiative. The initiative called on the commission and 23 other agencies to make structural and operational reforms.

The commission already has adopted the county's procurement and ethics policies. It's also expected to save roughly $600,000 over the next three years by shifting its website to the county's system, consolidating IT personnel and changing its cellphone policy.

"It's a work in progress," Cronin said of the changes. "We're continually seeking ways to find efficiencies throughout the county government."

When asked if DuPage might someday merge the election commission with the county clerk's office to save money, Cronin said it's a scenario he's considering. However, there's no reason to pursue such an idea right now.

"That may ultimately be the right thing to do," Cronin said. "But I reform one step at a time. When it comes to the election commission, we have to be very deliberate and thoughtful about it."

The commission was formed in the mid-1970s to bring bipartisan oversight of elections to DuPage. Under state law, both political parties must be represented on the three-person election board.

Cronin said he doesn't believe that should change.

"No matter what you do with the election commission, I believe it's vitally important to have an oversight board that is comprised of Republicans and Democrats," Cronin said.

In the meantime, the commission is exploring other ways to save money. For example, it's in the process of considering bids from four law firms for legal services. A contract is expected to be awarded next month.

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