The unresolved question of who gets whatever money the Aurora Election Commission has left pushed Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham on Thursday to sound the alarm about his office blowing its budget this year.
Aurora citizens voted to abolish the election commission in March. Kane County will assume responsibility for all but 10 election precincts formerly served by the commission. Will and Kendall counties will assume responsibility for the 10 other precincts. DuPage County’s election commission already manages its portion of the city.
Both Kane County and the city of Aurora financed the election commission’s operations. Officials from both governments now await a decision by Judge David Akemann on who gets the money sitting in the commission’s bank accounts. Some figures suggest up to $900,000 sat in those accounts before the March primary election. Akemann chose not to freeze the commission’s assets. So it’s not clear how much of that money remains. It’s also possible the county or Aurora could wind up with the responsibility of funding any unpaid debts the commission has.
With the November election less than seven months away, and with early voting obligations, the deadline looms for the county’s preparations to accommodate voters in Illinois’ second-largest city.
Cunningham’s “Plan A” for accommodating those voters involves transitioning them away from the paper ballots Aurora voters have always used. Kane County uses electronic voting machines. Making that transition means buying more equipment to put in Aurora. It also means training both Aurora voters and the election judges Kane County will hire from the defunct commission on how to use the county’s machines.
Cunningham has already posted videos about how to use the machines at kanecountyelections.org. The videos provide a virtual voting experience with the machines.
Cunningham said the voting learning curve is a larger concern for him than even his budget to run the election.
“We’re going to be judged on how fast we get election results out, not all this other stuff,” he said. “Right now, I’m worried about Aurora. It might hold us back as far as our results coming in.”
But that worry has its roots in the commission’s unresolved money. Cunningham sees that as money that would help buy the equipment he wants to ensure the vote counting goes as smoothly as it’s been in the rest of the county. Without that cash, Cunningham may only have the money earmarked in the 2018 budget for the commission. That might mean keeping the equipment Aurora voters already know but training county staff on how to use that unfamiliar system. This is a scenario Cunningham refers to as “Plan B.”
“Plan A is that we want the Aurora Election Commission’s money,” Cunningham said. “Plan B is if we don’t get it, what do we do? We’ll work with what we have. I’m not that worried about it. I like a challenge.”
Akemann is set to rule on the fate of the commission’s money and debts as early as April 24.