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Wheeler takes up school board elections in new bill

Published: Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 4:25 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014 8:37 a.m. CDT

Do you know who your school board members are? What about when they meet? Have you a clue about what they're voting on?

It's precisely that political indifference that state Rep. Barb Wheeler hopes would be improved by a new bill that would change the date of local elections.

The Crystal Lake Republican has signed on to co-sponsor a piece of legislation – HB2926 – that would change the date of local elections from the spring elections in odd-numbered years to the fall elections in even-numbered years.

The fall, or general, election often features high-profile races such as those for the president and governor, meaning more people are politically tuned in. But it's the smaller races that have more of an impact, Wheeler said.

"Off-time elections have ridiculously low voter turnout, and these are the people that make the strongest impact in our daily lives," Wheeler said. " … It's the guy who plows your street, the guy who makes curriculum decisions at your school, those are the ones that are impacting your daily lives."

Wheeler said her motivation was twofold – a potential pension shift to local school boards and the controversial plan in Oakwood Hills to build a power plant there.

Voter turnout in April's primary election was a pitiful 17 percent. Many of those races, including that of the next McHenry County sheriff, were decided by less than 100 votes. It's not uncommon to see races come down to less than 20 votes.

And these are the contests that have the largest effect on residents of McHenry County, and specifically their property tax bills, Wheeler said, adding that it's important for residents to take note of who's making those locally important decisions.

“School board members make significant decisions regarding taxpayer dollars at the local level,” Wheeler said. “Unfortunately, most people do not know much about their elected school board members and do not even vote in the elections where these people are chosen.”

The bill was introduced and sponsored by state Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove.

When should school board elections be held?
In spring in odd-numbered years
In fall in even-numbered years

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