BLOOMINGTON — McLean County Board could take steps toward consolidating local election agencies as soon as the end of the year.
Chairman John McIntyre is seeking feedback from board members on the idea of moving from splitting election duties between the Bloomington Election Commission and McLean County Clerk's office to a single agency for all McLean County elections, he said on Tuesday.
County Administrator Bill Wasson told the board last month that operating "two election agencies, both paid for by the county, is confusing at best and inefficient at worst," and he asked the board "to participate in dialogue and legislative discussion on a remedy."
"I want everybody to have facts before we move ahead and see. I'm not sure. We don't know yet," said McIntyre of what action the board might take. "That's exactly why I made that comment at the end of our meeting to ask them to give me input."
Wasson said the fact-finding process could end before 2018 to allow staff to include information on the issue in the county's legislative agenda, which lays out how local officials want state lawmakers to help them through legislation.
His request came during a presentation on the county's 2018 budget, which includes a $1 million budget deficit that threatens jobs. The county is offering buyouts to experienced employees, is under a "soft hiring freeze" and has cut pay raises; nine employees have volunteered for buyouts so far.
"Regardless, it is not going to have an impact on the 2018 budget," Wasson said of consolidating elections.
Board action would break a long stalemate between the county, which prefers to absorb election duties into the clerk's office, and League of Women Voters McLean County, which has pushed for a countywide commission for years.
Officials have identified two possible solutions: 1,000 Bloomington voters could petition for a referendum of city voters to eliminate the BEC, or the county could push for a legislative change to allow a countywide referendum on establishing a new commission covering all McLean County elections.
Board member Josh Barnett tweeted Monday, "This deserves further conversation and debate. Consolidation is a good thing, but let’s explore all options and get it right."
Nikita Richards, a Democrat running for county clerk in 2018, said Sunday she supports a countywide election commission. Kathy Michael, the Republican clerk seeking re-election, said last week, "Moving the Bloomington Election Commission duties into the county clerk’s office makes good fiscal sense."
Currently, the BEC conducts elections in Bloomington, and the clerk's office conducts elections in the rest of the county, including Normal.
Peoria and Springfield have both consolidated to a single election agency.