GENEVA – The Kane County Board voted to keep 24 single-member districts at a special meeting Tuesday as it is poised to work on reapportioning districts’ boundaries as required, based on the 2020 census.
Board member Drew Frasz, R-Elburn, cast the lone no vote, as he did at last week’s Reapportionment Task Force meeting.
“It just had to do with the fact that 10 years ago, I was here when we reduced it from 26 to 24,” Frasz said. “And the thinking at that time was that every 10 years, the county board we would have the option to reduce it by two, which would put us down in that range of 18 by that time we would reach 800,000 population that would require an 18-member board. And it would be easier if we did it a bit at a time. I think we can easily accommodate the county with 22 board members.”
Frasz was referring to state statute that requires 18 board members for counties of 800,000, though attorneys had explained previously that the law was written specifically for DuPage County and would likely be adjusted for other counties.
Board member John Martin, R-Geneva, said the board decides things by committee, “not 24 people around a table trying to decide what’s going on.”
Board member Michael Kenyon, R-South Elgin, said he supported keeping the board at 24 because each person brings the breadth of their life experiences to making decisions for the county.
“I know of managers who think they’d rather have less board members because it’s easier to control – 24 cats running in every direction – we’re pretty hard to control,” Kenyon said, prompting laughter.
The rest of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting centered around the risks of using the American Community Survey to decide how to draw boundaries by a July deadline, because the 2020 census data will not be available until September.
Census data is delayed due to the pandemic, officials said.
Special Assistant State’s Attorney Phillip Luetkehans, who has 30 years of experience with redrawing maps based on census data, is assisting officials with their task.
Luetkehans said the goal is to create districts that are substantially equal in population, while following section two of the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority districts from being diluted so they cannot elect a candidate of their choice.
One of the issues in redrawing boundaries is incumbents, as sometimes two elected officials might live a mile apart, but could be pitted against each other when boundaries are redrawn, so sometimes boards draw boundaries to protect incumbents, Luetkehans said.
“That is a decision to be made by this board, not us. But that is something you can take into account,” Luetkehans said.
“I have been a proponent for the last 20 years of drawing districts from an ethical or from a governmental standpoint. I have been a proponent of changing the law for the last 20 years to say you should not draw based on incumbency and you should not draw based on politics – you should draw blind. The law is not that way though,” Luetkehans said.
The American Community Survey gives a rolling snapshot of data of 3.5 million households on a five-year rolling estimate, not the more complete census, he said.
The latest data would be from 2015 to 2019.
But Luetkehans cautioned that using it comes with risk because more than 60 organizations oppose it and the county would likely be sued over it.
He showed a slide of organizations that stand against it, which included Common Cause Illinois, Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization, League of Women Voters of Illinois, Lawyers for Good Government, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educators Fund, the NAACP, National Urban League and the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund.
“I have been in 20 Senate hearings in the last month and a half, and (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educators Fund) has testified in at least six or seven of them, ‘Do not use ACS,’” Luetkehans said.
The option then is to ask Illinois lawmakers to extend the time allotted to counties to make these decisions, he said. And while there is no bill at the moment, one would be expected by the end of May, he said.
“You cannot be asked to do something that is impossible,” Luetkehans said. “We are between a rock and a hard place either way.”
By consensus, board members decided to proceed with the ACS data, but will also consider a lawsuit seeking relief to be voted on at the next regular County Board meeting May 11.
The board also voted for a $5,000 budget adjustment for up to four town hall meetings related to the reapportionment of the county’s districts.