Early voting begins Feb. 25

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Election day for the 2021 municipal election is less than two months away, but the voting process starts next Thursday when early voting begins. 

Monroe County voters can cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the county clerk’s office in the Monroe County Courthouse from Feb. 25 until April 5. 

There will also be early voting March 27 from 9 a.m. to noon at the courthouse and at Columbia City Hall, since Columbia has most of the contested races. 

After the massive turnout for the November election, Monroe County Clerk Jonathan McLean said he expects voter turnout to return to normal levels. 

“We don’t really see a lot of intrigue in the consolidated elections,” he said. “There is only a handful of contested races, so we’ll probably see a higher turnout in Columbia compared to the rest of the county. But we’re still probably only going to see 20-25 percent turnout.” 

“Unfortunately, voters don’t show as much interest in the municipal races as they do for state and federal,” McLean added. 

McLean said Monroe County will still conduct election operations a little differently because of the pandemic. 

“We’re going to have the same precautions we used for the general election,” he said. “If we have some voters who are still concerned about voting in person, vote by mail is always available.” 

All voters will not receive a letter informing them of mail-in voting procedures this year, as the law requiring that only applied to November’s contest. To vote by mail, contact McLean’s office by calling 939-8681, ext. 302.

The most noteworthy items on the ballot in the April 6 election are in Columbia and Valmeyer. 

In Columbia, there will be two contested seats on the city council in addition to the mayoral race between current city clerk Wes Hoeffken and Monroe County Coroner Bob Hill. Kevin Hutchinson, the current mayor, is not seeking a new term.

Doug Garmer, the current chairperson of the Columbia Plan Commission, filed to run against Jim Agne for his spot on the council representing Ward I. 

Ward III will also see an aldermanic race, as Paul Khoury has filed to run against Gene Ebersohl.  

There will be no contested Columbia School Board races, but candidates Andrea Crowder Khoury, Tyson Search and Adam Hemken will all be new board members after current board members Karen Anderson, Greg O’Connor and John Long did not file to run again.

For the Valmeyer School Board, the situation is more complicated. 

There are three spots up for election, but only two candidates have filed for them, and only one of those individuals can be elected. 

That is because Valmeyer elects school board members by congressional township, a system that was created over 60 years ago to ensure all students got a quality education when Illinois began consolidating one-room schoolhouses. 

Only three board members can live in the same township, and there are already two people who live in the same township as candidates: Justin Rohlfing and Stefanie Johnson-Tyberendt. 

“They ran into the problem where they had several good candidates who lived in the same congressional township,” McLean explained. “They didn’t want to run against each other. They all wanted to work together.”

So, Valmeyer residents will vote on a referendum to eliminate that system and elect school board members at large, meaning anyone who lives in the district can serve. 

“I think it’s an obsolete law,” McLean said. “In this example, you’ve got people who are interested in running, and it prevents people from being able to serve who have an interest. And it’s hard getting people to want to run for a thankless job.”  

That may solve the village’s problem for future elections, but not for this one. 

There are actually two write-in candidates, John Niebruegge and Kyle Andres, running for the two other spots on the school board. 

“It’s kind of crazy because the two people whose names are on the ballot, only one of them can win. But the two people who are write-ins, as long as they get I think it’s 50 write-in votes, then they win,” McLean summarized. 

Valmeyer will also have at least one new member on its village board. Jean Langsdorf has chosen to not seek re-election, so Rob Noland has filed to take that seat. 

Similarly, the Waterloo City Council will have one new member after Russ Thomas, who represents Ward I, did not file to run again for his seat, while newcomer Matt Buettner did. 

Waterloo will have another contested race, but this one for the park district board.

Gina Pfund, Keith Buettner, Michael Nolte and Edwin “Scott” Davis Jr. are all on the ballot, but there are only three spots open. Buettner and Nolte are the only incumbents.

To the north, Dupo will have multiple contested races. Mayor Jerry Wilson will vie for re-election against current village trustee Chris Ragsdale. 

The Dupo Village Board will also have three open seats with six candidates looking to fill those. Candidates who filed are Ron Dell, Dawn Keys, Allan Moallankamp, Jerry Goodrich, James Smith and Tammy Taylor. 

In Millstadt, Mayor Michael Todd, Village Clerk Christine Pipik, and village board members Michael French, Albert Lehr and Mark Todd are all unopposed in their bids for re-election.

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