GENEVA – The Aurora Election Commission tried to preserve itself by trying to stop a referendum on its dissolution from being placed on the March 20 ballot in Aurora.
In a hearing before Kane County Court Judge David Akemann on Jan. 4, commission attorney Patrick Bond argued that the petitioners did not choose the right election, as per state election law.
The law, Bond stated, calls for a general or regularly scheduled election, not a primary race where those who have no party affiliation would be disenfranchised or forced to choose a party.
Ross Secler, representing the petitioners, argued that lawmakers intended for such a question to go before the voters at any election, including the primary. “The general primary is on the general election cycle,” Secler said.
“It is not in the election code,” Bond said.
Secler also said that voters can ask for an independent or unaffiliated ballot and vote on the question without declaring a party.
Secler also argued that the commission should not have standing in its filing as a friend-of-the-court brief. Secler argued that the commission is acting as an advocate for itself, seeking to retain its existence by getting the question off the ballot.
“Clearly, the Aurora Election Commission is … not an unbiased party,” Secler said.
The question itself was also an issue for the attorneys as state law requires a particular wording: Shall the city election law be rejected?
The petitioners wanted explanatory language added so voters would be clear that a ‘yes’ vote was to abolish the Aurora Election Commission, but Bond argued that the law does not allow for it.
Secler countered that explanatory language was allowed for a 1986 ballot question on the same issue.
Akemann allowed two objectors, Alex Arroyo, a member of the East Aurora District 131 school board and Aurora resident Gordon Leach, to have a recess to file their 200-page objections electronically, as now required by law.
Secler filed a motion to dismiss their objections, which Akemann will hear Jan. 9.
State law requires that Akemann make a ruling by Jan. 11 as to whether the question will go on the primary ballot.
Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said he was among those collecting 1,500 signature on petitions to get the question on the ballot.
“If it was dissolved, it would save Aurora taxpayers $650,000 a year,” Lauzen said. “I am an Aurora taxpayer.”
Lauzen said it costs Kane County about $750,000 per year to support the Aurora Election Commission. If the Kane County Clerk took up the commission’s duties, it would cost that office an additional $150,000 to $250,000, he said.
Lauzen said the additional funds for the clerk’s office would be found by cutting expenses elsewhere, as the county would not increase its levy to cover it.
Commission Chairwoman Leah Anderson said it would cost the clerk’s office more than what Lauzen projected, because the commission just bought new voting equipment six months ago. It’s different than what the county has and the clerk’s office would need to have all the same machines, she said.
Anderson said additional judges also would cost more because Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham’s office pays them more than what the election commission pays its 40 judges.
The Aurora Election Commission has 73 precincts, including some in Will and in Kendall counties.
If the question makes it to the ballot, and if voters choose to dissolve the Aurora Election Commission, the precincts it handled would become the responsibility of each county’s respective clerks, Lauzen said.
“I circulated 20 pages of petitions myself,” Lauzen said. “I say, ‘Ask the people.’”