DeKALB – A large slate of elections awaits residents when months of political advertisements, debates, yard signs and campaigning come to an end.
There will be a combination of 26 different races and eight referenda on DeKalb County residents’ ballots in November, with national, state and local political control hanging in the balance.
Residents have the next two months to prepare for the election with the opportunity to register available now and the chance to vote starting Sept. 27.
DeKalb County Clerk John Acardo has launched a website at www.votedekalb.com that gives residents a list of key dates, candidates, voting options and a chance to view a sample ballot to see which races out of the 26 will be on their ballot.
The new site is one way Acardo said his office is trying to centralize as much information as possible to make voting easy and accessible. He hopes the efforts result in a large turnout.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in voter registration this year,” Acardo said. “At the last presidential general election, we had a 75 percent turnout, which was the highest in a long time. ... I would bet there will be about a 70 or 71 percent turnout this year.”
Rare opportunities, such as the chance to amend the Illinois Constitution and the guarantee of at least one new representative of DeKalb County in Washington, could draw more people to the polls.
Residents will have a direct influence on the future of pension management in Illinois because they can amend the constitution to restrict benefit increases.
The change would require a three-fifths majority vote of each chamber of the General Assembly, or the governing body of a unit of local government, school district, or pension or retirement system, in order to increase a benefit under any public pension or retirement system.
The state has at least $83 billion in unfunded pension liability, and end-of-career raises for public employees have been criticized as a contributor to the problem.
Voters in the city of DeKalb also will decide whether the city should have an appointed or elected clerk. The question comes on the heels of former Clerk Steve Kapitan’s resignation after he failed to comply with aspects of the state’s Open Meetings Act.
Even if an appointed DeKalb City Clerk position fails to pass by referendum, the position might be reduced to a part-time elected position. In that case, the appointed deputy clerk position, which is now part time, would become a full-time job.
Sandwich voters will have the chance to authorize their library to borrow $3.4 million for a new building to replace the 71-year-old, three-story structure.
Jennifer Burke, director of the library, said plans for a new one-story library on South Main Street have been years in the making. Voters must approve a $3.4 million bond sale in order to secure the $1.6 million state grant.
The building is inaccessible to people with disabilities and has multiple structural issues and leaks, Burke said. Library officials say the owner of a $150,000 home would pay about $64 more a year in property tax if the referendum is approved.
“I know it’s difficult times right now,” Burke said. “But our building is basically coming down.”
Further south in Somonauk, voters will decide whether an increase on their property tax bill is worth extra financial support for its school district. Somonauk Community School District 432 is asking to increase the tax rate from 3.05 percent to 3.95 percent.
Superintendent Dawn Green said the increase, which would generate roughly $900,000 a year, is needed to offset the plummeting property values that have affected the district’s budget. Without the increase, academic programs would be cut and class sizes would continue to increase.
“We haven’t had new textbooks in 10 years,” she said. “We need this money just to maintain our existing programs.”
Countywide, voters are guaranteed one new face in Washington as Adam Kinzinger runs against Wanda Rohl for the 16th Congressional District. Incumbent Don Manzullo, R-Egan, lost to Kinzinger in the primary.
Kinzinger, R-Manteno, represents the 11th Congressional District but decided to challenge for the 16th District after new maps were drawn. The new 16th District will cover most of DeKalb County instead of just the northernmost third.
Rohl, a social worker and drug counselor from Ottawa, was caucused in by county Democrats in May. This is her first campaign for public office.
Control of the DeKalb County Board also is up for grabs as all 24 seats are up for election, with eight of the 12 districts featuring competition. Districts 6 and 7 have unchallenged Democrats while Districts 1 and 11 have unchallenged Republicans, giving each party four of the 24 seats.
If the Republicans – who control 13 seats – maintain control, there still will be a change in leadership as Chairman Larry Anderson is not seeking re-election.
Ruth Anne Tobias, D-DeKalb, presided as chairwoman during the Democrats’ time in charge from 2004-10 and said the leadership position in the county gives the party a louder voice and is a goal for Republicans and Democrats.
But holding the majority is not the most important goal.
“It’s nice to be in the lead,” she said. “But we try to be nonpartisan and work together. It’s very important to have two points of view.”