Local Government

Electronic voting rules will go to full McHenry County Board without committee's changes

H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com 
Jack Franks was sworn in as the first popularly elected County Board Chairman on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.
H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com Jack Franks was sworn in as the first popularly elected County Board Chairman on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

WOODSTOCK – A McHenry County Board committee’s efforts to adjust proposed rule changes to allow for electronic voting won’t be moving forward.

After almost 90 minutes of delving into minutiae and what-if scenarios, the Internal Support and Facilities Committee voted Friday, 5-0, to recommend approving the changes, with some modifications of its own. The language was drawn up by County Board Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and approved by a five-member ad-hoc committee he convened earlier this month.

But Franks said the committee has no jurisdiction over the County Board rules, and knows it. The version that will appear before the county at next Thursday’s meeting of the Committee of the Whole will be the version his committee originally recommended – one of the chairman’s rights under the rules is to set the agenda.

Franks convened the ad-hoc committee because no standing committee under County Board rules has the explicit power to amend them, although that task in past years has historically gone to what is now the Internal Services committee. What’s more, Franks said, County Board rules require a 14-day review period for recommended changes, and the rule changes as first proposed are scheduled for a Feb. 21 vote.

“What they did was against board rules, it was clearly violative, and they did it anyway,” Franks said.

The new system, which works through the county’s existing audio streaming and online agenda software, allows board members to vote with their county-issued iPads and displays voting results online and on a new flat-screen TV behind the chairman’s seat. It was paid for through the budget of County Clerk Mary McClellan, who is responsible for counting votes and taking minutes at the full County Board’s voting meetings.

But the system was installed without going through the County Board – members did not warm up to it when it was first used at the Jan. 17 board meeting. Besides pointing out that board rules only cover voice vote, members questioned why they were not brought into the purchase process, and alleged that they did not get adequate training.

Maintaining the software costs about $12,000 a year, or about $1,000 a month, not counting the one-time $2,700 cost of the hardware.

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