How Many Precincts?
County Clerk Joe Tirio has proposed splitting four existing Precincts to create four new ones pursuant to IL Statute 10 ILCS 5/11-3. The question is how he targeted these four Precincts and why now?
Readers will recall a previous effort by former County Clerk Mary McClellan to create over 30 new Precincts. That proposal was tabled by the McHenry County Board due to a lack of communication from the Clerk's Office on the how and why the proposed new Precincts were developed. It appears the current Clerk, Joe Tirio, has continued the tradition of leaving the County Board in the dark with his substantially scaled down proposal. At this past Thursday's Committee of the Whole hearing, Mr. Tirio had to answer lots of questions, including extensive damage control, regarding his proposal all of which could have been avoided with adequate communication with Board members.
At the center of the controversy is Statue 10 ILCS 5/11-3 which states, "the County Board in each county......shall at its regular meeting in June, divide its election precincts which contain more than 800 voters, into election districts so that each district shall contain as near as may be practicable, 500 voters, and not more in any case than 800." Sounds simple. Not so. Depending on how you calculate "voter," the majority of the County's 212 Precincts, or 20 Precincts are over the 800 limit. Is this a violation of the statute? Maybe and maybe not as some contend that past Court rulings have diluted the statute to make it advisory and not mandatory. Where's the State's Attorney's opinion on this important issue? Ah, there're working on it. So why these four Precinct changes? County Clerk Tirio stated he feels these District are the most vulnerable to a Court challenge. However, even with his changes the new Precincts created would still have over 800 voters. What!
And if that isn't complicated enough, the State is looking at the election statutes with the thought of a complete redo and update of what is an antiquated election law. The updated statutes could possibly redefine the number of voters in a Precinct. Additionally, the 2020 census opens up the matter for a possible total redo of County Precincts. What to do?
Seems to me the Clerk, County Administration, State's Attorney and Board Members need to get together to put in place a strategy to deal with this matter both in the short and long term. The strategy then needs to be communicated to and approved by the Board to prevent the off the cuff surprise proposals on Precincts that catches everyone off guard.
Finally, why should this concern voters in District 2? Precinct Grafton 8, located in District 2, is slated to be split creating a new Grafton Precinct 33. The practical effect will be on polling locations and the number of Judges that will now be needed to service the new Precinct. The irony, both Precincts will still have over 800 voters and technically are still not in compliance with State election statutes. The County Board is set to vote on this matter at its meeting of June 18th. Bottom line, and this is my most generous description of the entire matter .....Too Little...Too Late.