Local Government

McHenry County Board poised to approve electronic voting rules Tuesday

WOODSTOCK – Five months after its electronic voting system was installed, the McHenry County Board is poised to amend its rules to allow the system’s use.

Board members at their Tuesday meeting are expected to vote to change the rules to reflect the new system – current rules only govern voice vote.

But if Thursday’s Committee of the Whole was an indicator, several members could propose last-minute additions, possibly two that were discarded because of questions about whether a committee had any jurisdiction on the matter.

Under the proposed rules recommended by an Ad Hoc Committee on Governmental Accessibility created by Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, electronic voting will be used for all roll call votes, except for attendance or in situations in which the equipment is malfunctioning.

The system only will be used during full County Board meetings and not for standing committees, which under Franks now meet in the boardroom so their meetings can be audio-streamed online.

One of those committees, the Internal Support and Facilities Committee, had recommended several changes, such as advancing the roll call by one member for each vote and requiring votes to be read out loud after they are cast electronically.

However, Franks did not move those forward, citing the fact that the committee under County Board rules, or any committee for that matter, is not granted the explicit power to amend them. The task in past years has gone to what is now the Internal Services Committee.

The system, which works through the county’s existing audio-streaming and online agenda software, allows board members to vote on issues with their county-issued iPads, and it displays voting results online and on a flat-screen TV behind the chairman’s seat.

It was paid for through the budget of County Clerk Mary McClellan at a cost of $2,700 for the hardware, and about $1,000 a month for the software. The county clerk’s responsibilities include counting votes and taking minutes at full meetings of the board.

When the system was first used at the board’s Jan. 17 meeting, board members complained of a lack of training and the fact that County Board rules did not reflect electronic voting. Members have since received training on the system’s use.

Although board Vice Chairman Jeff Thorsen, R-Crystal Lake, said he welcomes any proposed amendments Tuesday, he also said that it’s time to start using the system.

“The best way for us to get this thing on the ground is to start it up and run with it. At this point, we really have beaten this horse. Let’s get it going,” Thorsen said.

If the rules are approved Tuesday evening, the County Board is expected to start using the system at its June voting meeting.

Members also are expected to officially declare a vacancy on the board, which would start the process to replace Andrew Gasser. The Republican from Fox River Grove is resigning to take the office of Algonquin Township highway commissioner, which he won in an upset victory.

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