• Erin Hegarty
    SEP 28, 2021

    Election commission leaders set to detail $9M budget increase tied to election year, new ward map

    Chicago Board of Election Commissioners chair Marisel Hernandez speaks to reporters during a March 2020 news conference. [The Daily Line/Alex Nitkin]

    Tuesday will mark day three of the City Council’s departmental budget hearings as aldermen are set to hear from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners on its proposed budget swell to handle the 2022 primary and general elections and the implementation of a new ward map. Members of the council’s Committee on Budget and Government Operations are also scheduled to hear from leaders of the administrative hearings and human resources departments on their proposed budget increases. 

    Board of Election Commissioners 

    The Board of Election Commissioners’ budget is set to leap from a $16.7 million budget to nearly $25.6 million in 2022 — a 53 percent increase tied largely to next year’s statewide elections, Lightfoot’s spending plan shows. 

    The board of election commissioners oversees everything elections entail — from managing voter registration and training poll workers to informing residents of voting options and tabulating and verifying election results. A new 2020 law also requires the board to send vote-by-mail applications to qualified voters. 

    “The increase in the 2022 budget reflects all of our work to administer the upcoming June 28th Primary and November 8th General Elections, as well as additional preparations for the February 2023 Municipal Election and the April 2023 Run-Off Election,” Max Bever, director of public information for the Chicago Board of Elections, wrote in an email to The Daily Line. 

    The city’s board of elections saw its budget drop from $22.6 million in 2020 to $19.2 million in this year’s budget. 

    Related: Widening city’s investment net could help fight systemic racism in banking, Conyears-Ervin tells aldermen 

    Under Lightfoot’s proposed 2022 budget, the city’s election board would add the equivalent of three full-time positions, including a new Director of Public Affairs position, bringing its total headcount to 121, according to budget documents. Marisel Hernandez chairs the Board of Election Commissioners and Charles Holiday, Jr. serves as executive director. 

    The election board’s overtime budget is set to jump from $5,500 to more than $752,000 in 2022 and its “extra hire” line item is proposed to increase from more than $67,000 to just more than $2 million. Additional line items set for increases next year include legal expenses, court reporting, rental of property and “professional services for information technology maintenance,” according to budget documents. 

    Another task on election commissioners’ agenda next year is implementing the remap of the city’s 50 wards and all of its precincts, as well as the new Congressional, legislative, representative, county and other district boundaries that will change according to the results from the 2020 Census, according to budget documents. 

    Once the City Council approves a new ward map, it is submitted to the Board of Election Commissioners to develop new voting precincts based on the new boundaries.  

    Related: Chicago, Cook County and Illinois to tackle the ‘very complicated project’ of redistricting this year 

    The 2022 budget proposal “accounts for a minor increase to implement the new maps into our voter software systems, as well a full city-wide canvass mailing to update the voter rolls and inform voters on their new polling and precinct information,” Bever wrote. 

    The board of elections will notify voters of their “new election information” once the City Council certifies the new ward map, “approximately in early 2022,” according to Bever. 

    Chicago’s board of election commissioners next year also plans to work with other local and state leaders to modernize the Illinois Election Code “by reducing the number of election precincts throughout the city,” according to budget documents. Through the update, the city plans to eventually replace its 2,069 precincts with between 100 and 500 “modernized accessible universal voting centers where any Chicago resident can vote on election day from any location in the city,” budget documents show. 

    Commentary: Vote Centers should replace cramped, inaccessible Election Day polling places in Chicago 

    This year the board of election commissioners launched an Automatic Voter Registration program, which streamlined the voter registration process and is projected to process 180,000 new or updated registrations this year, budget documents show.  

    Department of Administrative Hearings 

    The city’s Department of Administrative Hearings would see a modest budget increase from nearly $7.8 million to more than $8.2 million under Lightfoot’s proposed 2022 budget. 

    The department is responsible for adjudicating ordinance violations issued by city departments, monitoring case clearance rates and scheduling hearings and motions requests, according to city budget documents. 

    The administrative hearings department would see its full-time employee count increase by one position to 40 total, including the addition of a new “human resources business partner,” according to budget documents.  

    Chicago’s administrative hearings department plans during the first quarter of 2022 to implement “text message court date reminders for recipients of Chicago Police Department (CPD) issued citations.” The department hopes to use the text notifications to raise the court appearance rate. 

    Additionally, the department plans to grow the e-filing system to allow the police department to file electronically vacant property violations, according to city budget documents. 

    The city’s administrative hearings department saw a 7 percent decrease and the loss of three full-time equivalent positions between 2020 and this year’s budget. 

    Related: Coyotes, raccoons and ‘barnyard animals’ a major complaint of aldermen during animal control budget hearing 

    Department of Human Resources 

    The city’s Department of Human Resources is also set to see its budget increase next year as Lightfoot’s spending plan grows it from $6.8 million to $7.8 million. 

    The department is responsible for overseeing the recruitment, selection and hiring of employees across all of the city’s departments. It also administers exams to determine promotions and hiring and maintains Chicago’s position classification and salary plan, according to budget documents. 

    Under Lightfoot’s proposed 2022 budget, the Department of Human Resources would grow its full-time equivalent positions from 75 to 83, according to budget documents. New positions include a “policy analyst” and an “[equal employment opportunity] investigator” under the department’s “workforce compliance” section, budget documents show. 

    New positions under the department’s “employee development” section include two “senior testing and assessment specialist” positions, each with salaries of $94,428, and a “director of assessment and selection methods” position with a $103,560 salary, according to budget documents. 

    Human resources employees next year plan to conduct a campaign focused on “diversity recruitment” for firefighters and paramedics with the intention to target “communities where there have been lower applicant numbers,” budget documents show. 

    The department also intends to work with the city’s infrastructure departments to create apprenticeship programs “for trade positions in order to create job training opportunities for residents,” according to budget documents.

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