By Linda Girardi
Governor Bruce Rauner recently signed into law legislation that gives the DuPage County Board authority to dissolve the DuPage Election Commission, turning over its duties to the office of the DuPage County clerk, Paul Hinds.
The clerk’s office currently manages requests for birth certificates and marriage licenses, and after January 1 it will assume additional duties for voter registration and elections.
“County clerks handle election services in the vast majority of counties in the state of Illinois,” county board chairman Dan Cronin says. “The merger provides an opportunity for increased efficiency and better service for taxpayers.”
Since the measure will not officially go into effect until early 2019, the DuPage Election Commission will oversee the upcoming November 6 general election, when contests for federal, state, and county offices are on the ballot. The election commission’s interim executive director, Suzanne Fahnestock, will oversee that election.
The bill signing in July came on the heels of an election commission voting catastrophe that delayed the county’s election results for the March primary. A vendor provided the election commission with the wrong “ender” card that scans results in the county’s voting machines, the county clerk says.
“It all comes down to testing. Nobody checked the ender cards or tested one,” Hinds says. “The way to prevent glitches is to test everything from the beginning to the end. I plan on running a mock election to test the entire process.”
Hinds said his office is well into the transition of creating an elections division to manage future elections for approximately 630,000 voters in DuPage County, and he plans to have regular staff meetings to discuss progressions within an election cycle to avoid pitfalls.
“The transition is about streamlining procedures and changing the way we perform the duties,” Hinds says.
The new legislation also reverses a move approved in the early 1970s that removed the duties of elections from the county clerk.
“There was incentive to levy a property tax to purchase new equipment for elections; with an election commission they could do that,” he says.
The DuPage County clerk will run its first election in April 2019, when contests for local units of government are on the ballot, including municipal and school board races.
Hinds also plans to update the website to provide easier access to public information on early voting, sample ballots and polling places.
“The information is out there, but it’s not user-friendly,” he says.
State Representative David Olsen (R–Downers Grove) was one of the chief sponsors of the legislation.
“The voters of DuPage County spoke on this issue in an advisory referendum and overwhelming approved of the consolidation. We are excited to be able provide better services to residents of the county,” Olsen says.