WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) — Lake County officials have announced plans to file a lawsuit challenging a new state law aimed at stripping the county clerk of the power to run elections.
WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports the legislation, approved by the governor on Monday, would hand oversight of elections in Lake County to a five-member commission appointed by the county’s chief judge.
At least two of the commissioners must be Democrats, and at least two must be Republicans.
Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim said the legislation is wrongfully aimed at Lake County alone.
“It defined this as any county with a population of more than 700,000 people that borders another state, and borders no more than two other counties,” he said. “We believe that this is a classic form of special legislation.”
Nerheim said the target county description is essentially a joke, since Lake County is the only county which fits that definition.
Lake County Clerk Willard Helander, a Republican, said the law is just politics aimed at her by Lake County Democrats.
Earlier this year, she said the effort to pass the new law was a vendetta by state Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan), who also chairs the Lake County Democratic Party.
“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 has 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 in May.
She also said the new election law would cost Lake County taxpayers $700,000 for no particular benefits in the way elections are run in the county.
The measure was part of legislation allowing for online voter registration throughout the state.