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Aldermen Still Discussing Macomb Referendum

Nov 14, 2013

Macomb city council members are still deciding whether to seek voter input on the future of the city’s February election.

They have until December 30, 2013 to place a referendum on the March 2014 ballot that would ask voters to do away with the election. If it is eliminated, city council elections would take place in April of odd-numbered years, starting in 2015.

There is one exception – a February election would be held if five or more candidates filed for a single seat. The top two vote-getters in such an election would advance to a run-off election in April.

Fourth Ward Alderman Dave Dorsett appeared to oppose the referendum.  He said someone could win an election with four candidates with as little as 26% of the vote. He also said that the “five or more candidates” rule would be confusing – some years there would be a primary and some years there would not.

“I don’t believe that it’s a good usage of referendum,” said Dorsett.

But others pointed out the winner of the February election has always gone on to win the April run-off. They questioned what was accomplished with the February election.

“I think we are simply wasting the county’s money by having this primary,” said Alderman At Large Thomas Koch.  The county clerk’s office is responsible for conducting elections and would prefer the city hold its balloting in April, which is when all other municipal elections are held.

City Attorney Kristen Petrie said the city’s February non-partisan election created an exception to the state’s election code  – one allowed by the Illinois constitution – which is why it can only be eliminated through a referendum.

“That particular proposed change would need to be done by referendum because it’s a change to our form of government,” Petrie told aldermen.

Petrie said the ordinance creating the February election was written in 1986.

The issue of eliminating the February election has come up because of the confusion in this year’s race in the second ward. Steve Wailand was declared the winner over Kay Hill, 17-to-16, but only after taking the case to court when he was initially denied the victory in the “50% Plus One” ruling by the county clerk’s office -- a ruling the city did not contest.