We are encouraged by McLean County Board Chairman John McIntyre's action last week asking fellow board members for feedback on the idea of consolidating the county's two election authorities.
The touchy issue has been discussed and debated on and off for years, but it appears something may finally be done. And it should.
There is no need for separate election agencies — one solely for Bloomington residents, the other for the rest of the county and Normal.
Everyone admits that set-up can be confusing and there are likely inefficiencies that can be addressed by creating just one election office.
The question is what form should that take?
Local officials have identified two possible scenarios: 1,000 Bloomington voters could petition for a referendum of city voters to eliminate the Bloomington Election Commission, or the county could push for a legislative change to allow a countywide referendum on establishing a new commission covering all McLean County elections.
McIntyre's initial thought is the county would prefer all election duties be handled by the clerk's office.
County Clerk Kathy Michael agrees, telling The Pantagraph that it's "hard to imagine how creating a larger unit of government (countywide commission) which has the singular purpose of conducting events twice a year would provide any economic relief to the taxpayers of McLean County."
Most Illinois counties, big and small, center their election management in their county clerk's offices. Officials in Peoria and Springfield, which went through similar consolidations in the last 25 years, both said they've saved more than $300,000 per year because they eliminated redundant positions. Peoria now has a countywide commission; Springfield elections are run through the Sangamon County Clerk's office.
While the logical move would be to not re-invent the wheel and keep everything under one roof as McIntyre suggests, it's the right move on his part to gather feedback that can kick start a real discussion — and presumably — lead to real action by the end of the year.
The issue has gained steam recently because the county — like the city of Bloomington, town of Normal and other local governments — is hurting for money.
County Administrator Bill Wasson is dealing with a $1 million budget deficit. Because consolidation isn't something that will happen quickly, it wouldn't impact the county's 2018 budget, but Wasson and others agree merging the two offices makes long-term sense because finding expense savings wherever they might be, is something that will, literally, never end.
As we stated earlier, this debate has been going on for years. A few more months to allow the county to set a direction for a serious discussion is not going to hurt.
But after that point, we expect to see a definitive result — a single election authority.