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Lake County Pols Spar Over Control Of Local Elections

Several ballots supplied for the primary election in Illinois on March 20, 2012, were a fraction of an inch too big, and would not fit in vote tabulation machines. Some were cut down to size, others were put aside to be counted by hand. (Credit: CBS)

Several ballots supplied for the primary election in Illinois on March 20, 2012, were a fraction of an inch too big, and would not fit in vote tabulation machines. Some were cut down to size, others were put aside to be counted by hand. (Credit: CBS)

John Cody John Cody
John Cody is a veteran reporter for Newsradio 780.
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CHICAGO (CBS) – The Illinois Senate has passed a measure that would strip the Lake County Clerk’s office of the power to supervise local elections, and hand it over to a new commission appointed by the county’s chief judge.

Lake County officials claimed State Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan), who also chairs the Lake County Democratic Party, is waging a political vendetta against Lake County Clerk Willard Helander, by promoting legislation that transfers election control from her office to a brand new five-member election commission.

Lake County Clerk Willard Helander said it’s a done deal that will cost taxpayers $600,000 a year, improve nothing, and remove from voters the right to choose the new election commission.

Helander, a Republican, claimed the legislation was aimed at her specifically.

“It says that Terry Link doesn’t want me to be county clerk. He hasn’t been able to convince the voters of that, so he’s written a bill to go around the voters,” she said.

Link denied the bill was his idea, though he said he supports the plan. He said the bill is solely designed to bring Lake County in line with other local governments that have election commissions.

“We have it in DuPage, we’ve got it in the city of Chicago, we’ve got it in Rockford. What this does is takes partisanship out of the election process, which I think should be out of every election process in the state of Illinois,” Link said.

The measure was introduced by State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), who said Lake County should have an appointed election commission just like DuPage County and Chicago.

The measure has been approved by the Illinois Senate and Link expressed confidence it would pass the House and be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor also opposed the plan, saying it would create another layer of bureaucracy.

“The bill takes away county authority and is unfair to Lake county taxpayers,” Lawlor said.

The measure regarding Lake County elections is part of a much broader legislative package that also would allow for online voter registration throughout the state.

The House Executive Committee has signed off on the overall package, and a full House vote could come Thursday or Friday, the final two days of the spring session.