Friday, August 17, 2012
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Spring election pushes city redistricting decision

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[August 17, 2012]  Tuesday evening, City Clerk Susan Gehlbach told aldermen that the State Board of Elections has established the dates for the consolidated primary and general elections for next spring.

She said candidate petition forms will be available beginning Aug. 28. The filing dates have been established as Nov. 19-26.

The primary election will be on Feb. 26 and the general election will be April 9.

She said the petition forms and candidate guides are available on the Illinois State Board of Elections website. There is also a copy on file at the clerk's office, and copies can be made from that if requested.

Treasurer Chuck Conzo told the council that he would recommend they get the candidate guide and read through it carefully. He said there was a lot of information to go through in the guide, but there were specific details about running for the office of mayor or alderman that would be very helpful to them. He also noted that, most important, they need to keep in mind what the filing dates are and be sure to file on time.

Alderman Tom O'Donohue then commented that right now, no candidate could actually collect signatures on a petition because the problem of redistricting the city has not been resolved.

Snyder said that was correct. According to state law, the redistricting must be done 30 days prior to the filing date. Therefore the project must be completed no later than Oct. 19.

He said he has had talks with Will D'Andrea, who handles the Logan County GIS program. D'Andrea said he is available to help the city, using GIS data. Snyder said this would be a less expensive route for the city to take as opposed to hiring an outside firm to assist.

Snyder said there was also a question that had to be decided before any work began: Would the city move to four districts or stay at five?

In the state laws there are conflicting statements that leave the option up to the city. In one place the law reads that the redistricting must be done. In another place it appears that the city could opt not to redistrict.

City attorney Blinn Bates has warned that he feels staying with five wards could be a risky situation and moving to four might be the wiser decision in spite of the conflict in the law.

Snyder said the process would first be to decide on five wards or four, and then he would appoint a committee to go forward with the work.

Melody Anderson confirmed with Snyder that the council has only two months to get all this done. She then noted that if the city does go to four wards, it is her understanding every alderman will have to run for office in the coming election.

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Snyder said that is correct. If the city goes to four wards, eight aldermen will be elected in 2013. Once the elections are won, the council will hold a lottery drawing for who will serve the two-year term and who will serve the four-year term in each ward, thereby re-establishing the normal rotation in the city council.

Conzo also weighed in, saying the same would be true even if the city stays with five wards.

According to state law, cities can determine their number of wards based on total population. Then the wards must be established in such a manner that each one has approximately the same number of residents. Even if the city does stay with five wards, the boundary lines will have to be redrawn to achieve the proper populations in each ward.

Because of that, aldermen may find they are representing a different group of constituents, and that group may opt for a different candidate for alderman.

In the city of Lincoln, currently five candidates run for the office of alderman every two years. This has been established so that at any given time there are still experienced aldermen in office, while possible "freshmen" are learning the ropes.

Though it may not seem probable at the moment, it is possible that in the coming election an entirely new "freshman" council could be elected into office.

Snyder drew the discussion to a close by suggesting a motion to go into next week's agenda. He said the motion could read that the city would go to four wards. If the motion fails, he said it could then be assumed that the city wishes to maintain five wards, and then redistricting can move forward from there.


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