We were pleased this past week when a Kane County judge ruled that a binding referendum could be placed on the March 20 ballot that seeks to dissolve the Aurora Election Commission. If voters approve the measure, the county clerks in Kendall, Kane and Will counties would assume the responsibility of overseeing voter registration and elections in their respective portions of the city.
Currently, the AEC has jurisdiction over three precincts in Kendall County located on either side of Route 34 (Ogden Avenue) near Farnsworth Avenue. In addition, the AEC oversees several precincts in the Will County portion of the city that includes several thousand residents of the Oswego-based School District 308.
Proponents of the referendum effort in Kane County have rightly argued that the county clerk’s offices are well positioned to assume the current duties of the AEC at a potential annual savings to city taxpayers of $650,000.
From a Kendall County perspective, elimination of the AEC would end the confusion among voters and candidates that has occurred in the county’s Aurora precincts. Often at election time, clerk’s office employees hear from voters who live in the Aurora section of the county who are upset they are not able to cast early ballots at county-run election voting sites. Instead, they must vote at AEC early voting sites in Aurora.
Ordinarily, we would expect a referendum that asks voters to abolish a government agency would stand a very good chance of being approved. However, due to the wording of the referendum question, we have serious doubts that the referendum will pass.
Instead of asking voters a simple, straightforward question such as, “Shall the City of Aurora Election Commission be abolished and the county clerks in Kendall, Kane and Will counties assume the commission’s responsibilities?” voters will be asked “Shall the City Election Law be Rejected?”
Yes, the AEC is not even mentioned by name in the referendum question that will determine the agency’s fate. We are certain there will be many voters scratching their heads when they come across the referendum question on their ballots. Already Kendall County officials are puzzled by the question. During a board meeting last week, County Board Chairman Scott Gryder asked County Clerk Debbie Gillette if casting a yes vote would mean voters would be choosing to abolish the commission. Gillette responded, “I’m not a lawyer.”
Election officials and, especially, voters shouldn’t have to consult an attorney for a clarification of any referendum question. But, as worded, the AEC referendum question is a fitting testament to the state’s confusing election laws and provides ample evidence as to exactly why it is so hard to change or do away with government agencies in Illinois.