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While the November election is top of mind for many, the 2021 consolidated election is right around the corner and the ballot is ripe with local seats that will impact McHenry County residents for years to come.
The spring 2021 election, to be held on April 6, will decide the fate of a number of municipal, township and school district seats, including who will serve as mayor of Crystal Lake after the death of former Mayor Aaron Shepley in May.
"We think a lot about presidential elections due, in large part, to the fact that there's billions of dollars spent in all forms of advertising via every imaginable channel," McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio said in an interview Monday. "We don't think much about the local elections ... and, when it comes to property taxes, these are the races that really dictate a lot of that."
Voter turnout in the last municipal election in 2019 was 9.7% with more than 22,400 ballots cast, according to the McHenry County Clerk's Office. Two years before that, when the vast majority of these seats were last up, turnout was 15.1% with about 33,300 ballots cast.
That's compared with the last presidential election when turnout in McHenry County hit 66.6% with about 145,300 ballots cast, according to the clerk's office.
"Because [these candidates] are elected by such a small number of the population, if they are representative of the rest of the population, it is a coincidence," Tirio said.
Among the local races on the ballot this spring are the mayor seats for Crystal Lake, Cary, Harvard, Island Lake, Marengo, McHenry and Woodstock, according to an election report from the McHenry County Clerk's Office.
The candidate elected to replace Shepley as Crystal Lake mayor will serve the remaining two years of Shepley's term, according to reporting by the Northwest Herald. The seat will be up for election again in the 2023 consolidated election for a full four-year term.
Haig Haleblian, the acting mayor named by the City Council in May, said he plans to run in the 2021 election.
The village president seats are up for election in Algonquin, Barrington Hills, Fox River Grove, Fox Lake, Hebron, Huntley, Holiday Hills, Lake in the Hills, Johnsburg, Lakemoor, Lakewood, McCullom Lake, Oakwood Hills, Prairie Grove, Port Barrington, Richmond, Spring Grove and Union.
Many of these communities also will decide who will serve as village clerk, which is the elected official in charge of keeping municipal records such as the minutes of Village Board meetings.
Most communities also will decide the make-up of about half of their Village Boards. The other half will be up again in two years.
City Council seats are up in Crystal Lake and Woodstock, according to past election documents. In Harvard and Marengo, voters will elect new aldermen for the first through fourth wards. In McHenry, alderman seats are up in the first, third and fifth ward.
A number of seats are up for election at the township level as well including supervisor, clerk, assessor, highway commissioner, collector and trustees. The McHenry County Clerk's Office has maps of the county's townships on its website for any voters who may be unsure of what township they are in.
Also on the spring 2021 ballot are board seats for local school districts, park districts and library districts. Two seats on the McHenry County College Board of Trustees are also up for election this April, according to a recent news release from the college.
"I understand that it can be hard to keep track of all of these things as a citizen and as a voter," Tirio said. "[Local candidates] don't have a lot of money for advertising, so you don't see a lot of signs, you don't hear any commercials ... but they are very, very important parts of our community and things that, as voters, we should be paying more attention to."
Election packets for candidates wishing to run for these seats will be available beginning Sept. 22, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Candidates running with an established political party or who are running for a nonpartisan municipal office must submit nomination papers including their signed petition between Nov. 16 and Nov. 23, according to the state board of elections. All other candidates, including those running independently or with a new political party, must submit their completed nomination papers between Dec. 14 and Dec. 21.
Local election officials must certify the candidates running for each office within their jurisdictions with the McHenry County Clerk's Office by Jan. 28, Tirio said.
It has not yet been determined whether there will be a primary election in the spring, he said. If a primary is held, it will fall on the last Tuesday of February which, in this case, would be Feb. 23, according to the state board of elections.