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Our view: Let voters have choice

Published: Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

We’ve been critical of the McHenry County Board over the past couple of years for failing to ask voters if they’d prefer to popularly elect the board chairman at the ballot box.

Today, we’ll offer some accolades after learning that the board’s Management Services Committee may advance a referendum that would do exactly that.

There’s still plenty of work to do before a referendum gets before voters. But the County Board, at least, is moving in the right direction.

Under the current process, voters elect their County Board representatives by district – four each in six geographic districts. Every two years, the County Board members themselves elect their chairman.

The Northwest Herald and others, notably state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, have called on the County Board to let voters decide if they’d prefer to change the current system and elect the chairman during a countywide election.

Under the existing system, the County Board chairman is accountable only to the voters in her district and the 23 other County Board members. If popularly elected countywide, the chairman would be accountable to all McHenry County voters.

There are arguments – positive and negative – for either system. Once the full County Board votes to put the item on the ballot (the next election is in March 2014), we’ll explore all sides in more detail.

Regardless, we feel strongly that voters should have that choice.

If the referendum gets on the ballot, perhaps voters will reject it and decide to keep the current system. Or perhaps they’ll decide to make the County Board chairman accountable to all voters.

But at least it will be voters making the decision.

We encourage the County Board to finalize the language of the referendum, making it as clear as possible, and voting to put it on the March 2014 ballot.

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