BATAVIA – Republican and Democratic candidates for Kane County clerk in the March 20 primary talked about what changes they would like to see in the office at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County.
Democratic hopeful Nicolas Jimenez said having the clerk’s office make sure it provides services to all the people in the county, as well as getting people more involved in the voting process, is a top concern.
“Making sure people have every opportunity to vote,” Jimenez said. “Election day is not a national holiday. We have to work through jobs, commitments, often children and their commitments and sometimes that can be very difficult. So [we should be] catering to that, making sure we have programs in place for how to vote and when to vote and who they can vote for is extraordinarily important.”
Jimenez is not in a contested race in the Democratic primary, but Stan Bond, is facing incumbent Jack Cunningham in the Republican primary. The winner in the primary contest will go against Jimenez in the Nov. 6 general election.
Bond said the clerk's office has been run by the same person – Cunningham – for 16 years.
Cunningham did not attend the forum, which was held before a packed audience at the Batavia City Hall on March 8.
“We are using election equipment that is 12 years old, and some of it is still running Windows 2000. It was created to the security standards of 2002. The current standards are 2015. The equipment we use is not even made anymore.” Bond said.
“There are 117 precincts in Kane County that are unlawfully large. And that’s happened because of the growth patterns in the county and the failure [of the clerk’s office] to readjust and realign,” Bond said. “And nine [precincts] that are unlawfully small. … We have to get from where we are to the future of voting in Kane County.”
Bond, of Sugar Grove, had been Cunningham's chief deputy and has a background in information technology. Jimenez, of Elburn, works as a quality assurance specialist for a cheese company.
Other issues facing the clerk’s office include what it can do to help a wider variety of people to vote – such as those who are homeless, incarcerated or people who are not mobile or otherwise unable to travel, Jimenez said.
Bond said a number of effective programs already exist but are not well promoted.
These include a ballot by mail program for people who want to vote from the comfort of their kitchen table, Bond said.
The clerk’s office also can bring a voting machine to a car or van and assist with voting, Bond said.
“Only half of the Kane County population is even registered,” Bond said. “We’ve got to reach young people and get them excited.”
One way to help the public have positive contact with the clerk’s office would be to improve the website, Bond said.
“Ours is an embarrassment, and I can’t wait to improve it,” Bond said. “I think we can do more in terms of outreach and publicity.”
“The website of the Kane County Clerk’s office definitely needs to be much more approachable to the average person in Kane County,” Jimenez said. “There needs to be very clear, concise ways to get the information that you need.”
Jimenez said the website needs to appeal to younger people who are technologically savvy and older voters who may not be.
To a question about how to handle large precincts and long voting lines, Jimenez said polling places should be set up to run efficiently and effectively.
“We should conduct a statistical analysis using historical trends of voter turnout to re-evaluate where we are with the size of our polling places as well as our precincts,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez and Bond both noted that a precinct in Rutland Township is very large.
“At one time, my precinct in Sugar Grove was the largest in terms of registered voters in the county, now it’s No. 3,” Bond said. “The largest by far is Del Webb Sun City.”
A resident there took Bond on a tour of their voting area and showed him how long the lines had been for voting.
“She estimated there were 300 people standing in line waiting to vote,” Bond said. “In my own precinct, I’ve seen the line is out the door, around the sidewalk toward the parking lot. And I’ve seen people … just breaking out of line and go back to their car. … That truly breaks my heart. We have got to do better. We can do better.”
Video of the candidates forum is available on the BATV website, mybatv.com.