DuPage County voters to decide on merger between clerk’s office and election commission
The nonbinding, advisory referendum seeks to gauge support of merging two DuPage County offices.
One of Illinois’ rarest units of local government may be close to extinction.
On March 20, DuPage County voters can voice their opinion at the ballot box on whether the DuPage County Election Commission should merge with the DuPage County Clerk’s office. Voters will be asked in a nonbinding referendum question if they want the DuPage Election Commission to dissolve and hand over all duties to the DuPage County Clerk’s office.
DuPage County officials say combining the two offices will result in taxpayer savings and increased efficiency, according to the Daily Herald.
Only two counties in Illinois have such a unit of government.
Unlike Illinois’ other 100 counties, DuPage and Kankakee counties have their own county election commissions. In December, officials estimated the move would save local taxpayers at least $300,000 annually, according to the Naperville Sun.
However, DuPage County officials do not currently have the authority, under state law, to merge the offices. While the DuPage County Board created the election commission in 1973, the Sun explains, they cannot legally dissolve it.
A proposal in the General Assembly was filed in February 2017 to deal with this problem, but it’s seen little traction since state senators voted in its favor. Filed by state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, Senate Bill 1592 would, among other things, move election duties to the county clerk’s office.
Though SB 1592 passed the Illinois Senate unanimously in May 2017, its future remains unclear. It’s currently stalled in the House Rules Committee.
While DuPage County remains rather unique with its county election commission, overlapping and inefficient units of local government are common across the Land of Lincoln. Illinois is home to the highest number of local governments in the country with nearly 7,000, including more than 1,400 townships. This high number of local units of government is a significant cost-driver behind Illinois property taxes, including in DuPage County.
DuPage County homeowners pay the second-highest property taxes in the state, with a median property tax bill of more than $6,200 annually, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2011-2015.
This question will not mark the first time DuPage County voters have been given the option to pursue local government consolidation.
In 2016, DuPage County residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of government consolidation on multiple ballot questions, including one nonbinding question in which Naperville residents were asked if they approve of the dissolution of township governments if another unit of government could provide the same services at a lower cost.
Only time will tell whether DuPage County voters want to keep this exotic unit of local government.