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Government

Legislators ask lieutenant governor to look at DuPage Election Commission consolidation

One of the biggest issues of 2014's DuPage County clerk race was the future of the DuPage Election Commission – namely whether it should continue.

Now a pair of local legislators are asking the lieutenant governor's office to take another look at it.

State Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Elmhurst, and Democrat DuPage County Board member Liz Chaplin have teamed up to request a special statewide task force consider dissolving the agency.

The county's election commission is one of only a few in the state, as most elections are run by each county clerk's office. DuPage is one of the few that are run by a separate entity.

"We had been talking about consolidation efforts in DuPage, so I thought that if we're going to be serious about consolidation [then] we need to look at the election commission," Chaplin said. "Maybe it's not feasible, maybe it's not worth doing, but we're asking the task force look at it and act on it if they choose."

The commission was created more than four decades ago, according to the county's website. As a separate entity, it requires separate personnel, extra office space and extra taxpayer dollars – something worth looking into, Nybo said.

The two have put in a formal request for the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandate Task Force, helmed by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti. The group is made up of a number of stakeholders from across the state, including County Board Chairman Dan Cronin. Its task is to try to eliminate wasteful government bodies and burdensome state mandates in light of the state's fiscal crisis.

Currently, commission Chairwoman Cathy Ficker-Terrill, Vice Chairman Christopher Hage and Secretary Art Ludwig each make $27,500 annually. Each are appointed by the county board chairman. The commission is scheduled to meet 22 times this year. Neither Nybo nor Chaplin could estimate how much the county could save through elimination.

Chaplin said she believed the issue would be "non-controversial," as the commission didn't collect a tax levy. Because most counties pay county clerk staff to do their normal duties as well as electoral duties, Chaplin said the clerk was "paying two people to do what one person already does."

Ficker-Terrill was not available for comment and county spokeswoman Joan Olson declined to comment until more formal action was taken.

In an interview last week, Sanguinetti said that "everything is on the table," but promised a fair look at each suggestion and more.

"I think we all understand as Illinoisans that we all have to go on a fiscal diet – we get it," she said.

Nybo said Chaplin approached him with the idea, and that the idea had merit.

He said he hoped the consolidation would put the power back into an elected office and setting up a system where the parties themselves choose who sits on the board.

"We've merely asked at this point that the government task force look at that issue and determine whether there is a cost savings there that can enhance accountability and other efficiencies in terms of personnel," he said. "We just want a sincere and honest look at the suggestion."

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