Redraw of Kane County election precincts puts local GOP, Dems in flux

In a vote that will cause major changes in the ability of local Democratic and Republican foot soldiers to hold elected partisan offices, the Kane County Board redrew the boundaries Friday for what are now 292 election precincts.

Precinct boundaries determine what polling locations people use to cast in-person ballots. They are also the geographies Democrats and Republicans use to elect their precinct committee members.

Those members are at the ground level for determining the local direction of the party, including party leadership, candidate endorsements and getting out the vote for those candidates.

Redrawing precinct lines to keep them manageable for committee members to do their work is supposed to happen every year. Kane County hasn’t redrawn its boundaries in 20 years. But state legislation passed in November required new boundaries within 60 days for the first time.

Despite the 60-day deadline, Kane County officials couldn’t begin the work of redrawing the boundaries until Dec. 28. State law also requires no more than one congressional and state legislative district in each precinct.

State legislative district boundaries were not approved until after Christmas. But the original 60-day deadline still applied, setting the due date as Jan. 15.

With just about two weeks to get into compliance with state law, county officials skipped the normal process of using the input of the full county board, or at least a full board committee, to set the new boundaries. Instead, the election clerk staff worked with the state’s attorney’s office, information technology department employees and the graphic information system staff to draw the lines.

They had input from county board Chair Corinne Pierog and public service committee Chairman Vern Tepe. Both are Democrats.

Throughout the process, board member Ken Shepro, who is also chairman of the Kane County GOP, objected to the lack of additional input. Shepro was one of four Republicans to cast “no” votes on the new boundaries.

Those votes followed concerns expressed by Geneva Township Republican Party officials. The updated map puts the chair, vice-chair and secretary of the Geneva GOP into the same precinct.

They will have to run against each other to maintain an elected seat within party leadership. Only one of them can prevail.

It’s that type of scenario potentially repeating throughout the county, for both parties, that caused county board members and fellow Republicans Cliff Surges and Todd Wallace to join Shepro in voting “no.”

Wallace said the maps “effectively disenfranchise precinct committeemen who will now have to run against another precinct committeeman. Combining precincts is causing a lot of issues that we are only now just realizing. It will have a profound effect as we go into this next election season.”