McHenry County Board postpones vote on new precinct maps after outcry from Democrats
Several McHenry County Democratic precinct leaders criticized new precinct maps proposed by the county clerk's office, arguing they were full of mistakes and the process lacked transparency.
McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio, a Republican, unveiled the maps last Thursday.
After a weekend of review, several county board members as well as other Democratic leaders in the county said more time was needed to fix problems.
"These proposed changes were never mentioned in any previous reports to the board nor appeared on any previous agendas nor have been brought forward before any committee, which means you, the board, or the public, or other stakeholders has not had time to give any input," Kristina Zahorik, the Democratic Party chairwoman for McHenry County, said at Tuesday's county board meeting.
The reason the county board is seeing the maps this month, Tirio said, is because of a new state law that requires precinct maps to be approved by Jan. 14, the day after candidates are allowed to begin collecting signatures to get on the 2022 ballot.
"I would've loved a lot of extra time," Tirio told the county board Tuesday. "The issue is whatever decision we make today, there is still a herculean effort to go back and now we're going to have to reapply to all these addresses to new districts."
He said the new map, which was drawn by geographic information system staff at the county, was "the best we could do" to get a proposal in front of the board this month.
Democratic leaders pushed back and said the map had too many issues that need to be addressed.
Cathy Johnson, the party chairwoman for McHenry County District 6, called the maps as "un-transparent and unethical." She cited numerous issues in the map she saw, which she said would divide neighborhoods and cause confusion for voters.
In one example, she argued changing the precinct number for the Del Webb neighborhood in Huntley would cause confusion for older residents who already had established voting routines.
"If it was a mistake, you haven't given us time to find these flaws and get them fixed," Johnson said.
Precincts determine where a person goes to vote on Election Day. The clerk's office staff said Tuesday that precincts are supposed to stay within the boundaries of county board and state legislative districts and contain 800 to1,200 voters.
The proposal also would increase the number of precincts in McHenry County to 217 from 212 in response to population changes.
The county board decided to postpone a vote on the map proposal to a special meeting on Jan. 12.
"Unfortunately, this new map has some obvious weaknesses that should be addressed," said board member Paula Yensen, a Lake in the Hills Democrat. "This is not a partisan issue. The problems I've seen in this map will be just as troubling for Republicans as Democrats. Precincts should be drawn to protect neighborhoods."
Board member Joe Gottemoller, a Crystal Lake Republican, said he was initially in support of the new maps but changed his mind after seeing some precincts in Nunda Township would cross into multiple county board districts.
Tirio warned that delaying approval of the maps until January may cause problems for candidates.
"That's going to make it probably impossible to have that data ready for petition passing," Tirio said.
Board member Kelli Wegener pushed back arguing candidates know the general boundaries of their districts and can still work with those, even if precinct data hasn't been updated by the clerk's office.