This installment of McHenry County Board member-elect Mike Walkup’s thoughts on township government concerns the political aspect.
THE POLITICS OF TOWNSHIPS
One of the main arguments for the continuation of townships is that the offices of Assessor and Road Commissioner are elected and that township government, being physically smaller than the county, is therefore more accountable to the people via the electoral process.
There is some surface appeal to this argument.
However, it is belied once you look at how the elections for township offices are actually held.
Elections for township office are held every four years in odd numbered years in the Spring.
The next one will be in April of 2013.
The general election portion of the township election coincides with elections for municipal offices and school boards, which are known as the Consolidate Elections.Voter turnout at Consolidated Elections is invariably low, unless there is some type of taxing referendum on the ballot at the same time.
Typically, turnout in years with no taxing referenda is around 15% to 20%.
If more people are coming in to vote for a taxing referendum, they usually only know about that referendum and are not familiar with the candidates for township offices which they are surprised to see also on the ballot.
They will either not vote for those offices or will guess their way through that portion.
In the more populous townships which have adopted partisan elections, the situation is much worse.
No Democrat has ever been elected to township office in McHenry County so far as I am aware. [Not on the Demcoratic Party label, as far as I know.]
Therefore, the Republican primary become tantamount to the entire election.
People who show up for the general election are usually even more Republican oriented than the population of voters who vote in general elections like the one we just had.
When, then, IS the Republican primary for township offices?
You may be surprised to learn that it is in February, 2013.
[Filing for GOP primaries in Algonquin, Dorr, Grafton, McHenry and Nunda Townships is from November 19th through 26th. Petitions must be filed with the township clerk, along with a statement of candidacy and receipt from the filing of a Statement of Economic Interest with the County Clerk's Office. These must be stapled together. Pages must be numbered.]
Very, very, very few people show up for this election, making it easier for townships to overwhelm the vote with their supporters.
Typically the turnouts for the primary are in the single digits percentage wise.
This assumes that there even IS a Republican primary.
There does not necessarily have to be one.
If they want, the precinct committeemen of the township Republican Party can vote at one of their meetings (which the public does not attend) to select all of the township candidates by caucus.
Then there is no primary and the general election is a foregone conclusion.
Oftentimes, various township officials or their spouses are also Republican precinct committeemen .
When do you vote for your Republican Party precinct committeemen?
You do that in the primary election in even numbered years, but only if you vote in the Republican primary.
Only about a third of the registered voters vote in either primary.
The precinct committeeman position is at the very end of the ballot, and is usually uncontested.
Virtually no one knows that this vote can, in effect, determine who the township officials will be the following year.
ARE ARGUMENTS TO ABOLISH TOWNSHIPS PARTISAN?
It has been commented on this blog that it is the Democrats who are interested in abolishing townships because most townships are in Republican areas and this would get rid of some Republican office holders and patronage jobs.
Actually, the movement to abolish townships in Illinois was started by a paralegal named Mike Richardson, who is a Republican and who lives in an area where the Democrats control the townships.
Bob Anderson, who spearheaded the effort in McHenry County, is very much a Republican.
The City of Evanston has placed an advisory referendum on the ballot to abolish Evanston Township, both of those bodies being Democratic. [It should be noted that Evanston Township has the same bounaries
Final installment: Are Townships Ready for Reform?