Don't dissolve panel in midst of election
Today, the DuPage County Board has a historic opportunity to overhaul the way we manage our elections. I think we owe it to the voters to get this right the first time and set out a clear path to professional, accountable, efficient, ethical election services.
We all agree that the DuPage County Election Commission has a troubled record. Everyone remembers the election night chaos of March 20, when DuPage primary results were delayed by hours because of preventable polling place closing glitches. Even after the resignation of the commission's executive director, problems remain. I was recently informed that our election judges still have not been paid, more than two months after the Nov. 7 election. That's not right.
As the newly elected DuPage County Clerk, I am eager to take on the challenge of straightening out our election processes. However, we need to do everything we can to manage this transition smoothly. Given that we are already in the midst of the municipal elections, it's a bad idea to dissolve the commission and bring election oversight responsibilities to my office before the April 2 election.
Consolidating these offices while an election is under way is like trying to repair a car that's speeding down the expressway. To assure professional management that voters demand -- and deserve -- we need to review our existing systems and personnel, drill down all the problem areas and find the best solutions to eliminate election problems once and for all.
The staff in my office are already facing unusual stresses as they work to serve the people of DuPage County. Six staff members -- one-third of the office -- submitted their resignations prior to my first day in office, taking more than 150 years of combined experience with them. With property tax bills due out in a few short months, we shouldn't ask our employees to take on this complex merger while the office is already extremely short-staffed.
This is not a partisan issue. During the campaign, my predecessor and I both agreed that a hasty transition would make no sense. We need to take a reasonable amount of time to recruit new professional staff and develop smart new operating procedures that will solve our election difficulties permanently.
When the DuPage County Board votes today to dissolve the DuPage County Election Commission and transfer its responsibilities to my office, I hope our board members will make the right choice for an orderly transition and make this change effective on May 1.
With this vote, we have an opportunity for a fresh start. Let's make the most of it.
Jean Kaczmarek, a Glen Ellyn Democrat, is DuPage County clerk.