To Let People Vote in Township Primaries or Not – Part 1

That is the question that Republican and Democratic township central committees are now considering.

Precinct committee have very little power.

In their precincts, if they develop a rapport with local residents, they can influence elections.

But, they can have real power if decide to hold a caucus to select nominees for township office every four years.

Prior to Algonquin Township Assessor Forrest Hare’s razor thin defeat in a 1973 township caucus, there was no option.

There was no provision in state law to hold a primary election to allow voters to select who should be on the April ballot for their party.

In 1969, Forrest, who was 25, defeated Henry Seigmeier, an older gentlemen. He had passed now-mandatory tests that the incumbent had not and ran an active campaign.

It was based on promising to protect new home purchasers by assessing them at the same percentage of market value that older homes were assessed.

At that time, official, yet illegal, guidelines were handed out by McHenry County Supervisor of Assessments Stanley Cornue.

The guidelines told assessors to assess homes at 60% of market value.

As county treasurer I discovered that 50% was the real guideline, but the guy in the Revenue Department told me he was telling me only because I was a county treasurer.

Top secret, hush hush, it seems.

I later discovered that the assessment percentages for all counties and large townships was published annually, but this guy made it sound like I had been admitted to the inner sanctum.

It was clear that homes in Crystal Lake’s newest subdivision, Coventry, were being assessed at 60% of sale price.

So, Forrest’s promise to lower then to 50% propelled him to victory over Seigmeier, who basically said he was just doing what the Supervisor of Assessments told him to do.

Well, Forrest not only followed the law and assessed all homes, even the older ones that were assessed lower than 50%, at the “official” state level, but he assessed vacant property the same way. There was no official break for farm land in state law, although, in practice, it was assessed no where near what it would sell for.

Forrest was the first township assessor in the state to computerize the calculation process. My neighbor Ted Tolleffsen, who was in data processing at United Airlines was in the publicity picture we took.

The most valuable vacant land at the time was where Best Buy is now. As I remember, it was owned by the Cowlin family. Bill, who was state’s attorney at the time was quite disturbed at the increase that Forrest imposed and I think I understate his reaction, which I just got second hand.

Alexander MacArthur, who owned a big farm in Barrington Hills, was incensed.

I still remember the manure spreader he entered into Crystal Lake’s Thanksgiving Parade that went through Colby’s Subdivision in 1972.

It had some play on words about “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” I think there were images of computer data cards.

Quite in keeping with Alex’s imaginative mind.

The township had no choice but to hold a caucus. I had just been elected state representative, so couldn’t be much help in Forrest’s campaign.

His theme was “Homeowners for Hare.” His sister made probably the best campaign signs I have ever seen.

Establishment Republicans recruited a 26-year old District 26 grade school teacher as their candidate.

The township central committee decided to have three polling places, one at Cary-Grove High School, one in Algonquin and a third at Crystal Lake Community High School.

After the polls closed, all of the ballots were brought to the CLCHS field house. I wish I could have been there.

The judges counted ballots until about 3 AM.

Forrest came up about 3 ballots short, losing to a District 26 young school teacher whom the GOP Establishment folks had put up. (You may have gathered that Forrest and I were not considered “establishment.”)

Forrest asked the judges if they were sure they had counted correctly and their reply was in the negative.

Forrest then asked the precinct committeemen on the township central committee for a recount.

It was denied.

Tomorrow – Part 2

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