When McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio was sworn into office in December, he told the Northwest Herald there was a “lack of confidence in the clerk’s office.”
This was after the November election, overseen by former McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan, when tens of thousands of early votes were not included in unofficial results until days after the election.
Voters chose Tirio – who is also the McHenry County recorder – to not only improve the clerk’s office, but also to lead the merger between the clerk’s and recorder’s offices, a change he proposed.
However, a mistake made by Tirio’s office in the April 2 consolidated election has us lacking confidence in his ability to run the clerk’s office and to ensure there’s a smooth transition with the merger.
We are disappointed to see that the referendum for the Marengo Fire Protection District authorizing a property tax increase to help fund benefit options for firefighters and paramedics was wrong on ballots and was not corrected until polls already had been open for hours.
Tirio said there were some last-minute changes to the ballot and admitted that was not an excuse for the printing of incorrect information. However, a voter information guide published before the election had the correct referendum wording.
Both referendums for the Marengo Fire Protection District and Marengo Rescue Squad District as they appeared on ballots Tuesday posed the question of whether the rescue squad district should levy a special tax at a rate not to exceed 0.4 percent of the value of all taxable property within the district. Although this was the request for the rescue district, the fire protection district was asking for something different.
The correct question was posted in polling places by noon Tuesday, Tirio said. Both referendums passed, according to unofficial voting totals.
This was an important question to get correct. The fire protection and rescue districts save lives in our community and its members had the right to make their case for an increased tax rate heard. Residents deserve to know exactly how much of their money will be taxed if they are expected to make an informed decision on whether that money is worth it.
The Illinois State Board of Elections will advise the clerk’s office on how to prevent election errors like this in the future (it’s not the first time the board has been involved in the county). Also, someone could contest the race, and if the challenge is successful, the clerk’s office could be made to host another election for the referendum, a spokesman for the board said.
It’s unfortunate that an easily avoidable ballot error could cost more taxpayer money to be spent on another election.
We hope Tirio takes the proper steps to ensure election integrity in McHenry County so we can gain confidence in the clerk’s office.