EYE ON ILLINOIS: Local election season kicks off in earnest — please get involved

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An Election Day column looking ahead to the 2022 statewide ballot was at least partially a commentary about how we’re almost always in election season, but a new one kicks off for real Monday as candidates for nonpartisan offices in April’s consolidated municipal elections begin filing nomination petitions.

A Feb. 23 primary is part of the cycle for races where candidates must declare a party affiliation. Partisan nominating caucuses took place last week. But across the state races for city council, township offices, school board, library trustee and other public bodies will begin to take shape from Dec. 14 through 21 as candidates turn in paperwork.

While this space won’t be able to keep track of all the candidates and issues, it seems fitting to remind readers that being an active participant in local elections is equally — if not more — important than paying attention when the White House is on the line. Clerks and poll workers take their jobs just as seriously in odd-numbered years, and the statewide and national discourse about election security remains relevant for the coming cycle.

In reality, April’s voter turnout will drop off significantly from November. Still, those who do participate likely will be interested in alternatives to the conventional polling place. Unlike the general election, there isn’t yet a law compelling clerks to send applications for mail-in ballots to recent voters. There probably won’t be nearly as many drop boxes for people to return ballots.

Lawmakers could make changes early in January’s session, and hopefully any proposals would be long-term fixes so we don’t have to adjust expectations every cycle. It’s unlikely anything could happen before the primary, but moving quickly to set up things for April would be nice.

County clerks and boards were always able to do more than the minimum, but gauging need is going to be much more difficult for an election cycle with far less participation. Turnout for Illinois’ April elections usually is in the teens, depending on the county, as opposed to figures in the 60th and 70th percentiles.

Local Gifts

A call for readers to share favorite “Made In Illinois” gift ideas drew quick responses.

Sherry C., from Sycamore, favors gift certificates from Ollie’s Frozen Custard in her hometown and also pies from The Hillside restaurant in DeKalb. She also was fond of Sycamore’s Sweet Earth, which is closing at year’s end.

Bob K. suggests a gift certificate for Kishauwau’s Starved Rock Area Cabins in Tonica. He says, “It’s closer than the Smokeys, quieter than the Poconos and the best fall leaf color this side of the Ohio.”

Please keep sharing your ideas! Drop an email and I’ll print suggestions as space allows.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Region: NW Herald,Local,Region: Suburbs

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December 12, 2020 at 06:19AM

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