The East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners would meet its demise if city voters choose to dissolve it in the March 20 election. Scrapping the 125-year-old election board will save the cash-strapped city almost $400,000 each year, according to Matt Hawkins, the president of the East St. Louis Alliance, a group that aims to reform city politics.
That’s money that could be spent on police officers and firefighters, according to Hawkins, whose group collected nearly 1,200 petition signatures to place the question on the ballot. Folding the election board into the St. Clair County clerk’s office, which oversees elections for the rest of the county, would lend a tremendous boost to the integrity of local elections, both in East St. Louis and the county overall, Hawkins said.
After a recent canvas that eliminated nearly 3,300 names, the election board has 19,471 voters on its rolls. That number is significant because East St. Louis’ long history of bloc voting has enabled the Democratic Party to dominate countywide offices for more than three decades. Anything affecting Election Day results in this overwhelmingly Democratic city would have a big effect on Democrats and their Republican rivals countywide.
Dissolving the election board, and bringing greater transparency to the election process, will make future county elections much more competitive, Hawkins said. “We need people to come back to the table,” Hawkins said. “We’re going to put belief back into the system.”
A court hearing on the ballot measure is set for 9 a.m. Jan. 17 in St. Clair County Circuit Court before Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn. Those opposed to the measure may voice their objections then. “I’m confident it’ll withstand any objections,” Hawkins said.