Sun City Huntley residents petition to keep Prairie Lodge a polling place

Petition garners more than 700 signatures; Sun City board agrees to revisit issue at next meeting

Residents began a petition last month seeking to reverse a decision made by the Sun City Community Association of Huntley’s board of directors to eliminate the community’s Prairie Lodge facility as a polling place.

The petition, which was started by Sun City resident and Kane County voter James Uszler, had garnered more than 700 signatures as of Thursday evening when a news release was sent out by the community’s executive director saying that the board would revisit the issue.

“We’re hopeful that they will finally listen to the residents because the residents did not have a voice in this, and we think it’s time for them to be heard,” Uszler said in an interview Monday.

Uszler said residents living in the Kane County portion of Sun City – the neighborhood is split between Kane and McHenry counties – were not advised that the vote would take place and therefore were not able to give their thoughts on the matter.

The proposal to eliminate the polling place was passed by the board in a 4-3 vote on March 24, Uszler said.

Since then, Uszler said he has been rallying his neighbors to call for a reversal or reconsideration of the vote on the grounds that they were not given advance notice of the change in how the facility would be used, as is required by the neighborhood association’s rules and regulations.

Prairie Lodge in Sun City Huntley has been used as a polling place for multiple Kane County precincts serving residents in and outside of Sun City since the early 2000s, according to a recent news release from Sun City and comments made by Kane County Clerk John Cunningham.

The change was driven by an issue that occurred during the Nov. 3 election, when the community’s rule against displaying political yard signs clashed with a state statute allowing the placement of campaign signs at polling places on Election Day, according to a release sent out Thursday by Sun City Executive Director Deanna Loughran.

Sun City always has banned the use of campaign signs – or any kind of yard sign – at the polling place and at homes in its neighborhoods, with the sole exception being to display a “for sale” sign when needed, according to the release.

This became an issue when signs were erected outside Prairie Lodge during the November election, Uszler said. Sun City staff removed them and later were admonished by the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office for violating state election law.

That was what led the board to determine that it “was not in the best interests of their neighbors to continue to allow the use of the Prairie Lodge to serve as a polling place,” according to the release.

Uszler argued that this is not a legitimate reason to remove the lodge as a polling place, as the community easily could make an exception to the rule exclusively on Election Day while the polls are open.

The polling location is ideal for the community’s strong voter base, especially those who are handicapped, disabled or may have more trouble getting around, Uszler said.

The Kane County clerk agreed with him, saying Sun City has a high voter turnout at the polling place and it would be difficult to find another suitable location nearby.

“That is the perfect location for [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance,” Cunningham said. “I personally would hate to lose that location but, you know, that’s up to the people that are there. ... It’s really an A-plus location as far as our needs.”

In Thursday’s release, Loughran said the board would “revisit” the issue at its next meeting April 28.

“Although the board’s action was taken, not to obstruct residents’ right to vote but to protect the private property rights of the association and the integrity of the rules and regulations for Sun City Huntley, the board will revisit the issue at the April 28 meeting,” according to the release.

Kelli Duncan

Kelli Duncan

Kelli Duncan is a reporter for the Northwest Herald covering county government as well as the communities of Huntley, Lake in the Hills, Marengo and Harvard. She has previously covered local politics, immigration and feature stories.