Vote to dissolve DuPage's election commission set for Tuesday, but clerk says it's too soon

Updated 1/11/2019 4:51 PM
  • Jean Kaczmarek

    Jean Kaczmarek

  • Dan Cronin

    Dan Cronin

A historic vote to dissolve the DuPage County Election Commission and return its duties to the county clerk's office is scheduled for Tuesday, despite a request by the clerk to delay the transition.

County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek on Friday said the planned merger of her office with the election commission should wait until after the April election.

"I have conveyed to county board Chairman Dan Cronin that I remain convinced that merging the two offices following the conclusion of the ongoing election best serves the interest of the citizens of DuPage County," said Kaczmarek, a Glen Ellyn Democrat who defeated Republican incumbent Paul Hinds during the November election.

But Cronin says he sees no reason to postpone Tuesday's vote by the county board. If approved, the merger will take effect immediately.

"I made a promise to the voters, the taxpayers ... that I would follow through and hand over the keys to the election commission to the county clerk, regardless of the outcome of the election," Cronin said. "Whether it was Republican or Democrat (clerk), I was going to make good on my promise. And I would do it as soon as possible."

The clerk's office is responsible for sending out property tax bills and handling other documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates. Overseeing elections soon will be added to that list.

Election oversight power was stripped from the clerk's office in the early 1970s to create the election commission. But there have been serious problems during previous elections, including a blunder that delayed results for hours during last spring's primary.

So county board members got state law changed to allow them to dissolve the commission and return its functions to the clerk's office. The change in the law took effect Jan. 1 and original plans called for the county board to approve the merger this month.

Cronin said Tuesday's vote will be the culmination of a multiyear initiative that was supported by Republicans and Democrats. Kaczmarek has been calling for the merger since 2013.

He said he doesn't understand why Kaczmarek wants to delay the change.

"I did not figure that she would not want complete control to lead the election commission as soon as possible," Cronin said.

Cronin said the county already has the people needed to oversee the April election and to work side-by-side with Kaczmarek.

"This is a turnkey operation," he said. "The professional staff is in place. They're already working to conduct the next election. Miss Kaczmarek's role is really to create policy, to help oversee the operations."

Nevertheless, Kaczmarek said she wants to collaborate with the county board "on preparing implementation plans and drafting an ordinance setting out the terms and effective date of a consolidation of the two offices."

In the meantime, she wanted Cronin to appoint her to the election commission board -- at no additional salary -- so the election in progress can continue with minimal disruption. "It would also provide me with the opportunity to familiarize myself with the commission's operations in advance of a full merger," she said.

The 1973 state law that formed the election commission required both political parties be represented on the three-person election commission board. Republicans hold two of the three seats.

Cronin said he can't appoint Kaczmarek to the election commission board because state law wouldn't allow it.

"She cannot be an appointee of the chairman," Cronin said.

Meanwhile, he said he doesn't see any obstacle to merging the commission and clerk's office now. He said the county board will support and help Kaczmarek during the transition.

"This is a perfect opportunity," Cronin said. "Everything is quiet in the local municipal election right now. It's not a major presidential election or a primary. There's a window of opportunity here. It's a good chance for her start."

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