Consolidated elections save money, give voters a rest
No, you didn’t just miss an Election Day, Cook County Clerk David Orr tells voters. While voters in a handful of states cast ballots in local and statewide contests this week, Illinoisans don’t need to get to the polls for another four months, when it’s time for the Presidential Primary election.
In the late 1990s, Orr introduced consolidating Illinois local elections in odd-numbered years – a move that has saved the state an estimated $100 million. Since we had our consolidated election this spring, there was no need for a November election in Illinois.
“While county clerks across the nation have been counting votes this week, we in Illinois were counting the savings,” Orr said.
Orr’s office estimates savings of about $4 million on suburban Cook County elections every odd year since the first Consolidated Election in 1999, or $36 million total savings.
“That’s nine elections we didn’t have to administer, and nine elections we didn’t have to pay for,” said Orr, who drafted the consolidated election plan and lobbied for its passage in 1997. The cost of elections comes from materials, supplies, machine transportation and set-up, paper, ballot stock, advertising and paying thousands of pollworkers.
Before elections in Illinois were consolidated, these odd-year local contests were random and turnout could be abysmal.
“Voter turnout is still something which we are constantly working to improve,” Orr said. “Consolidated elections have actually improved turnout for school board contests.”
In 1980, all ad hoc elections in special districts and municipalities were merged in February primaries and April general elections, with school board elections remaining in November. School elections were folded into the April election with municipalities, libraries, and parks, thanks to Orr’s initiative which was signed into law by Gov. Jim Edgar on Aug. 10, 1997.
The next election for Cook County voters will be the Presidential Primary Election, to be held on March 15, 2016. Candidates for a wide array of races – including U.S. Senate, U.S. Representative, some state senate and representative races, and countywide contests such as state’s attorney and circuit court clerk – can begin filing their nomination papers for the primary on Nov. 23.