Voters in Morris Township will be divided into just five precincts and will cast votes in just two polling places in all future elections.
On a recommendation from County Clerk Lana Phillips, the Grundy County Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the reduction in voting precincts from seven to five within the township. The reduction, which grew out of a need to change a polling place in the township, is expected to save between $5,000 and $7,000 in each future election.
In addition to approving the reduction in precincts, the board also approved a new list of polling places for the township, which will reduce the number of facilities used from four to two.
Altered polling places for Aux Sable Township in the Minooka area were also approved.
The votes to reduce the number of precincts and approve the new polling places came without discussion nor explanation during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday. However, prior to the meeting, Phillips provided a detailed memo to board members explaining the reasons behind her recommendation.
She noted that due to the Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District’s plan to remodel its facility at 121 W. Main St., that building would no longer be available for use as a polling place for Morris Precinct 2. No suitable alternative location could be found within the precinct and the Morris Area Public Library, which served as a polling place for the contiguous Morris Precinct 4, could not accommodate an additional precinct.
“I subsequently learned in May of this year that the city of Morris was looking at redrawing their ward lines to better serve their residents,” Phillips wrote regarding the changes that the Morris City Council approved July 15.
“I realized that by combining and adjusting precinct lines, I could decrease the number of precincts from 7 to 5, thereby saving the county money and better serving the public.”
The city has agreed to house three polling places — for the new Morris Precincts 1, 2 and 3 — in the Morris Municipal Services Facility, while the Grundy County Administration Center will house Morris Precincts 4 and 5.
When candidates begin circulating petitions for precinct committeemen posts on Tuesday, Sept. 3, they will need to do so for the new precincts that have been created.
Phillips’ memo noted that, in accordance with advice received from Ken Menzel, deputy general counsel of the Illinois State Board of Elections, the county is able to act on redrawing precincts in Morris Township to have more than 800 registered voters without changing any current precincts that are over the 800 mark.
Existing election law, she notes, prohibits precincts greater than that size. However, “the old law harkens back to a time when paper ballots were counted, by hand, by the election judges, in their precincts. This task had the judges often working into the next day.”
Phillips further wrote in her memo that, according to Menzel, “the state board has been trying for years to get new legislation passed raising the number of registered voters that can reside in any given precinct, because several counties are not in compliance.”
A chart provided by Phillips shows that in the 18 Grundy County voting precincts with over 800 registered voters only two times in the past four elections, dating back to November 2010, has an individual precinct had more than 800 votes cast. Those were Aux Sable 4 and Erienna 1, both during the 2012 November election.
Aux Sable 4 is actually one of the three Aux Sable Township polling places that will be moving in future elections. In the past, that precinct and Aux Sable 7 have both voted at Aux Sable Elementary School, while Aux Sable 6 has voted at Minooka Fire Station #2.
Moving forward Aux Sable 4 will join Aux Sable 3 in voting at Minooka Fire Station #1, Aux Sable 6 will begin voting at the Aux Sable Township Hall (along with Aux Sable 2), and Aux Sable 7 will vote at Minooka Village Hall, were Aux Sable 1 also votes. Aux Sable 5 will remain at the Lakewood Trails Clubhouse.
The changes were necessitated, according to Phillips’ memo, because Aux Sable Township Supervisor Tim Harms had request moving polling places from Aux Sable Elementary School to the bus barn, which County Board Member Debbie Warning opposed, according to Phillips, because she did not feel the bus barn was “up to code.”
Instead, Phillips contacted the Minooka Fire Protection District and the village of Minooka about making the changes that have been put into place.