The McHenry County Board approved a new map Tuesday dividing up what parts of the county its soon-to-be reduced membership will represent.
The board passed a new map in a 17-7 vote, with board member John Collins, D-Crystal Lake, the only Democrat to vote in favor of the maps.
The new map changes the board’s structure from six districts with four members in each to nine districts with two members in each. The board will be reduced in size starting with the 2022 election from the current group of 24 members down to 18.
“This map represents the most significant change since McHenry County voters began directly electing their board members with the ratification of the 1970 Illinois Constitution,” said Chairman Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake.
The new map was put together in the spring using data from the American Community Survey instead of census data, which was not released until August. The County Board originally had a deadline to pass the map by the end of June, but in May, state lawmakers pushed that deadline to Dec. 1 to allow county boards to review census numbers. Last week, Buehler said the map drawn in the spring accurately reflects McHenry County’s population changes in the census.
Board member Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, led the map drawing process. He said it took him six or seven tries to get districts of relatively equal population around 34,000 people.
The map also puts up to three incumbent board members in each of the nine districts, which drew accusations of partisan map making from the board’s Democrat members.
“I think we just need to be aware that many us criticize our state legislature for creating their maps around incumbent addresses. And I feel we should not be drawing the districts allowing the currently elected officials to choose their constituents, but our constituents should be able to choose their elected officials,” said board member Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake.
In the spring, Republican state lawmakers blasted Illinois Democrats for drawing new state House and Senate maps, which they said protected incumbent Democrats from facing serious challenges in elections but forced incumbent Republicans to run against each other.
“It was a way to make certain that everyone had a chance to run again,” Gottemoller said of the decision to put up to three board members in each district.
The board’s Democrats argued it protects certain board members, however.
“This is definitely a partisan map to represent the Republicans sitting here,” said board member Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills.
However, board member Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, argued one reason members were grouped together was to prevent the board from having completely new membership after the 2022 election and to ensure the board will still have some experienced members.
Gottemoller said discussions about how the board will function with 18 members will begin soon.