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Proposed McHenry County Board map draws partisan critiques, questions over timeline

The division of Algonquin into three separate McHenry County Board districts was questioned during a special session of the board’s Committee of the Whole, during which the map also was criticized as partisan.

During the meeting, which also served as a public hearing, officials took a close look at a redrawing of the county’s map presented by Chairman Mike Buehler to the board.

What’s proposed differs from the current board structure of six four-member districts that was established in 1992. The map is drawn with nine two-member districts and Buehler has said it is a “hybrid of many maps,” taking into account feedback from a consultant that was hired by the county.

Mike Fortner, a consultant for Rebecca C. Hall Consulting, said one of the important factors incorporated into the map is continuity of the County Board.

“This was an important thing to the chairman,” Fortner said. “We wanted to make sure that given that there were 24 board members reducing to 18 in nine districts that in no case were more than three incumbents placed in the same district. That was a feature that drove a lot of the discussion of the map that the chairman presented.”

Also discussed was respecting boundaries, compactness and contiguity.

Algonquin resident Mark Avelar spoke during the public hearing, expressing concern about the redistricting proposal and how it splits his hometown into more than one county board district.

“I do respect the consultant saying the township boundaries are maintained, but I’m seeing the village of Algonquin split into three different districts—districts 1,3, and 9,” Avelar said.

Avelar would like to see municipalities contained in fewer County Board districts.

“We found that maximizing our voice in county government is hand-in-hand with being able to guide the election of board members who would represent our municipality’s interest,” he said.

Republican board member Carolyn Schofield shared that concern, questioning whether the chairman will consider any precinct adjustments to the redrawing of the county map considering the issue of fragmentation specifically as it relates to Algonquin.

“Do you have the right to make minor changes to this map to then present to this board,” Schofield asked.

Buehler said he will take it into consideration, but there are no guarantees.

Several Democratic board members called the process of redrawing the county map into question.

Democratic board member Kelli Wegener asked whether there’s a plan in place in the event the map needs to be tweaked to account for any disparities resulting from population changes.

The county is working off of population estimates, not final census numbers, because of the delay in that data’s release caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Full and finalized data from the 2020 census is expected to be released sometime in September.

“Let’s say something does change and we have to move a precinct in or out of a district,” Wegener said. “Is there a plan about how we as a board go about that? Is that something that we will have Mr. Fortner do? Is that something [administrative] services will do? I assume then that will come back as a resolution to us.”

Buehler said the disparity and any affected districts would need to be identified and then a solution would be determined.

Democratic board member Tanya Jindrich asked whether the county could delay the July vote on the map if the state provided any timeline relief. State law requires counties to submit their redistricting proposal to the state in July.

Buehler said he’s advocated for additional time, but he’s not received any indication it will be granted.

Some board members argue the map is fair, while others said what’s proposed is partisan.

“I think that the current map respectfully gives everyone a chance to be reelected in a district that they currently serve,” Republican board member Joe Gottemoller said.

“I really think—and all due respect to Gottemoller—I think it is a Republican map,” Democratic board member Paula Yensen said. “I think it is. There is some partisanship in the devise of the map, in all due respect to Gottemoller.”

Barring any changes, officials said the County Board is expected to give the map consideration during its July meeting.

Further discussion on this topic could take place during the board’s meeting in June.


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