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Supporters turn in signatures for ballot question that would create Normal Town Council districts

Normal clerk Angie Huonker looks through petitions filed Monday afternoon.
Lyndsay Jones
More than two dozen people gathered at Normal City Hall on Monday to oversee the passing of the petitions to clerk Angie Huonker.

About 2,200 people signed petitions to put a ballot question in front of voters that would change the Town of Normal’s form of representative government from its current at-large system to one that is district-based, according to proponents who turned the petitions into the town clerk Monday afternoon.

More than two dozen people gathered at Normal City Hall to oversee the passing of the petitions to clerk Angie Huonker, including former 91st House District Republican candidate Jim Fisher of Hudson, among others.

Despite ostensibly supporting the petition, several of those present declined to speak to multiple media outlets present at the event, saying they had been told not to do so. Earlier Monday, Normal Town Council member Stan Nord sent a news release inviting members of the media to be present as the petitions were handed to the clerk.

In the release, Nord cited a “diverse group covering the political spectrum” as responsible for the number of signatures gathered, adding that “despite our diversity, we were able to work together toward this joint effort.”

Signatories of the petition supported putting a referendum-style yes-or-no question in front of voters during the general election this November, asking “Shall the town be divided into 6 districts, with one trustee elected from each district?”

Currently, all trustees are elected on at-large basis, meaning they need a few hundred signatures to be eligible to run for office; the referendum question the petition aims to get in front of voters would lower the threshold for a candidate to get on the ballot by a significant amount.

Normal resident Susan Lash was the only person willing to speak to reporters Monday regarding her support; another attendee reminded Lash she was not authorized to speak on behalf of the group, but Lash emphasized she was speaking on her own behalf and had a right to share her opinion.

“To me it’s very important for equity,” she said. “Even though right now I kind of like that the at-large people do tend (to lean) towards my point of view, that could change and we could have an all-conservative (council), but a mixture of viewpoints is really important.”

Lash said she has “developed friendships” with people “who live in certain areas of town who just feel they are not listened to.”

“I’m still drawn toward that equity issue of people having their voices heard,” she said. “As I pointed out, when they’re all agreeing with me and doing things I like, it’s really nice, but it may not always be that way for me.”

The nearly 2,200 signatures filed represent more than 5% of the number of registered voters in Normal in the 2021 consolidated election (33,566), which was the amount the town required for the petitions to be certifiable.

The petitions will remain in the town clerk’s office for public review for five business days, according to Huonker.

If anyone has an objection, it will have to be filed in writing and it will trigger the formation of a review committee. If no objections are made, or if any objections are found to have been made without a factual basis, the petitions will be submitted to the McLean County Clerk’s office.

The town has a deadline of Sept. 1 to file a ballot certification process with the county to get the question on the ballot for the Nov. 8 election.

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.