Ad hoc McHenry County Board committee OKs electronic voting rules

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WOODSTOCK – An ad-hoc McHenry County Board committee recommended approval of changes to board rules that would cover the use of a new electronic voting system.

The Committee on Governmental Accessibility on a 5-0 vote Thursday green-lighted the changes, which will have to go before a full County Board vote. County Board Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, convened the committee and was one of its voting members.

Electronic voting was first used at the Jan. 17 board meeting, but it did not get a welcome reception from board members. Besides pointing out that board rules only cover voice vote, members questioned why they were not brought into the purchase process, and alleged that they did not get adequate training.

The new system, which works through the county’s existing audio streaming and online agenda software, allows board members to vote with their county-issued iPads and displays voting results online and on a new flat-screen TV behind the chairman’s seat. It was paid for through the budget of County Clerk Mary McClellan, who is responsible for tallying votes and taking minutes at the full County Board’s voting meetings.

Maintaining the software costs about $12,000 a year, or about $1,000 a month, not counting the one-time $2,700 cost of the hardware.

The recommended rule changes do not require electronic votes for simple up-or-down votes for issues in which no money is being spent, but members can request one.

Franks said Thursday that McClellan will be meeting with individual committees to conduct training on the new system so that all 24 members are proficient.

In the past, the responsibility of reviewing and updating the County Board rules has fallen upon what is now known as the Internal Support and Facilities Committee. But Franks created the ad-hoc group because the County Board rules do not explicitly give any existing committee the duty.

The County Board next meets in a nonvoting Committee of the Whole on Feb. 16, with the voting meeting to follow Feb. 21.