BLOOMINGTON — Voters may finally have their say on the Bloomington Election Commission.
Months after the McLean County Libertarian Party started circulating petitions for a ballot question that would dissolve the BEC, the McLean County Republican Party is throwing its weight behind the proposal as well.
"It was unanimous: We think this is an issue that should go before the public," said party Chair Connie Beard of a vote among precinct committeemen last week. "We think eliminating the BEC would increase efficiency, save taxpayer dollars and make the process more directly connected to voter control."
If supporters get 1,000 signatures, officials can put a question on the Nov. 6 ballot to end the commission, which runs elections throughout the city of Bloomington, and give that responsibility to the McLean County clerk's office, which already runs elections everywhere else in McLean County.
The current clerk, Kathy Michael, is a Republican, though Democrat Nikita Richards is challenging her for that position in November.
Only registered voters who live in Bloomington can sign the petition, but Beard said Republicans have several hundred signatures already — Libertarians have a couple hundred, too — and she's confident they'll have no trouble clearing the minimum by an Aug. 6 deadline set by the state.
"Committeemen are working their precincts knocking on doors. The real push is going to be after the Fourth of July," said Beard. "We'll have petitions available at a lot of public gatherings (including Towanda's July Fourth parade and the McLean County Fair)."
Beard also encouraged others to circulate their own petitions. She noted people who live outside of Bloomington can circulate petitions.
"Those petitions won't be identified as Democratic, Republican or Libertarian. This is a nonpartisan issue," said Beard. "We welcome any and all participation."
Steve Suess, chair of the local Libertarian Party, said he's thrilled Republicans have joined the effort.
"I'll talk to the Democrats and see if it can be the first tripartisan referendum, maybe in the history of the world," he said with a laugh.
"The operation of two election agencies, both paid for by the county, is confusing at best and inefficient at worst," he said.
The petitions would end a longtime standoff between the McLean County Board, which needs support to put a referendum on the ballot, and the League of Women Voters McLean County, which has withheld support unless the board pledges to move elections from the clerk's office to an independent, countywide commission.
"The next time there's an election, if people want a referendum to make a countywide election commission, that's great, but we've got to get rid of the BEC first," said Suess. "This is common-sense, low-hanging fruit for us."
BEC Executive Director Paul Shannon did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
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