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Officials Weigh Idea Of Merging Chicago And Cook County Election Operations

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners had an easy hearing before the City Council Budget Committee on Wednesday, mostly avoiding questions about a proposed cost-saving idea.

Some state lawmakers and the Civic Federation – a nonpartisan budget watchdog – in recent years have suggested merging the city's election board with suburban Cook County's elections operations.

Election board spokesman Jim Allen said similar moves have been made elsewhere in Illinois.

"The trend out of Springfield has been to consolidate it under an election board. So that's what happened recently in Peoria and Peoria County. There's now a Peoria County Election Board. So you have a bipartisan commission whose members and whose staff are not allowed to participate in, endorse, [or] contribute to any campaigns," Allen said.


Such suggestions didn't really come up at the board's budget hearing, and Allen said the idea wouldn't save that much money.

"You're still going to have 12,000 pieces of equipment. You're still going to need … x-thousand square feet of warehouse space, you're still going to need about 28,000, 30,000 judges of election," he said.

Suburban Cook County's elections are overseen by County Clerk David Orr, an elected official who endorses other candidates. The members of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners are appointed by the Cook County Circuit Court, and the three-member panel must include at least one Democrat and one Republican – based on what ballots he or she has chosen in past primary elections.

Some aldermen said they support the idea of an independent elections board for the entire county, but Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) seemed to like things the way they are.

"Having our independent election authority I think is definitely a good move for our city," he said.

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