Kane clerk says his office can handle Aurora elections for less money
Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham told officials Thursday he can run Aurora elections for less than half the cost per vote than residents pay now. But at least one county board member -- an Aurora Democrat -- still has concerns about the county's ability to take on Aurora's voting needs without sacrificing quality or busting the county's budget.
Aurora voters will see a question on the March ballot asking if they want to abolish the Aurora Election Commission. Aurora residents who live in Kane County pay taxes to the commission as well as taxes to the county to fund elections. They use the election commission only on voting day.
Fans of abolishing the commission, like county board member Phil Lewis, say the double-taxing situation is reason enough for the county to take over.
"Financially, it makes sense to do this," Lewis said. "It makes sense to do it for the timeliness of results. Aurora is the county's second-largest city. It should benefit from the overall resources of the county they live in. I strongly encourage that community to take advantage of this opportunity."
Lewis is a St. Charles Republican. Many of the people who pushed the question onto the March ballot, including county board Chairman Chris Lauzen, are also Republicans. Cunningham, the county official who would take over Aurora elections, is Republican.
That's fueled a lot of questions among the all-Democratic contingent of county board members who represent Aurora.
Chief among the questioners is Don Ishmael, who is chairman of the Aurora Democratic Party.
"There's way too many people connected to the Republican Party pushing for this," Ishmael said in an interview.
Ishmael peppered Cunningham with questions Thursday. The discussion focused on how much older the county's election infrastructure is compared to what Aurora has, the costs the county will take on and the feasibility of having everything ready to serve Aurora in the six months between the March referendum and the November elections.
"You're asking us to use equipment and technology that is a decade old?" Ishmael asked.
"I'm old, too, but I still function," responded Cunningham, who turned 79 Thursday. He said the plan is to borrow voting equipment from another, unspecified election authority.
Cunningham said he would also keep some of the Aurora Election Commission's employees on to help with the November election. The money to pay for all that would come out of the dollars Kane County gives the commission every year, a total that's reached $640,000 in some years.
It's not yet clear how much of that cash the March election will burn through.
"If the people of Aurora vote this in, we can do it cheaper," Cunningham said. "The cost to the taxpayers will be reduced. There will be no duplication of basic services. And I don't think equipment will be a problem. I'm pretty much satisfied that it will not be a big problem to take this on."
Ishmael is not satisfied. He wants to see documentation about what the county does to prevent hacking, that the machines Aurora residents will use to vote are of no less quality, and that there is money to pay for all costs.
"As a citizen of Aurora, I like the Aurora Election Commission," Ishmael said. "But whatever the citizens of Aurora decide to do, I stand by. I just want to make sure we are ready to go."