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Kane County judge to hear elections lawsuit

Lake County Clerk Willard R. Helander.
Lake County Clerk Willard R. Helander.

A Kane County judge has been tapped to hear a Lake County lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction against a new law that would turn over election administration from the county clerk to an appointed bipartisan elections commission.

Kane County Circuit Judge David Akemann will be hearing the case in a Lake County courtroom, with the first hearing scheduled Friday, Aug. 2, at 9 a.m., according to Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim.

Nerheim and County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor filed the suit after Governor Patrick Quinn signed into law legislation that includes the controversial change in election procedure, and, by definition and location, imposes the change only on Lake County.

Although longtime Lake County Clerk Willard Helander is a Republican, Nerheim said political affiliation has played no role in the county’s objections.

“Willard has been doing a fantastic job, but this isn’t about Willard,” Nerheim said, noting that the governor signed the bill over “bipartisan objection,” and the change would cost the county an estimated $500,000 to $700,000 to implement a change residents have not asked for.

The origin of the Lake County provision remains murky, with State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, voting in favor of the bill but denying authorship of the Lake County election language.

Lawlor said Wednesday that “this law treats Lake County different than any other county in the state. It’s undeniable special legislation prohibited by the state constitution.”

Election commissions exist in other areas of Illinois, although they have been created through referendum or county board action.

The new law would require the chief judge in Lake County Circuit Court to name a bipartisan board with two Democrats, two Republicans and another member from either party or an independent.

A Kane county judge was appointed to avoid the potential conflict of interest of having a Lake County Judge rule on the suit.

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