The deadline for St. Clair County to realign its voting precincts is fast approaching. It has to happen at the County Board’s meeting on June 29 so the changes can be in place for the 2016 elections.
If the county is working on realigning precincts, it’s a well-kept secret. County Board member Frank Heiligenstein, D-Freeburg, isn’t aware of any realignment work. He outlined a plan more than a year ago to eliminate 65 of the county’s 205 precincts, which he estimates would save about $300,000 each two-year election cycle. That’s real savings.
His plan includes consolidating dozens of precincts that have fewer than 500 voters; one has just 162 voters.
County Board Chairman Mark Kern said a year ago that the county would have no problem meeting the deadline. But his changes are likely to be less aggressive than Heiligenstein’s. Kern has indicated that the county will stay within state law of 500 to 800 voters per precinct; Heiligenstein’s plan would have more.
The county has dozens of precincts now well above the 800 limit that operate without problem. The law is silly and antiquated, especially given the small percentage of registered voters who actually show up to vote and the increasing use of mail-in and early voting. We believe state lawmakers haven’t raised the limits to give politicians like Kern a convenient excuse to not consolidate too much. The more precincts, the more election judge jobs can be handed out, and the more difficult it is for poll watchers to keep track on Election Day.
It costs taxpayers $200 per election judge, and each precinct has five of them whether it has 150 people or 1,500 people registered to vote there.
The county should cut the number of precincts substantially to save the taxpayers money, but don’t hold your breath.