2012 election candidate questionnaire: Gordy Hulten, Champaign County clerk
4903 Watermark Drive, Champaign, IL 61822
Date of Birth: 2/7/1975
Education: BA in Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Other: Former Champaign City Council member; worked in several positions for the Devonshire Group from 2003-1011, including director of sales and marketing; served in U.S. Army Reserve 1995-2001; involved in politics for 15 years as policy analyst and campaign manager for several candidates; was Champaign County Republican of the year in 2006; founded and administered former IlliniPundit.com (blog); volunteers with the United Way of Champaign County and Rotary Club of Champaign; married with two children.
1. What qualities do you possess that qualify you to be the county clerk?
I have integrity and I am innovative and independent, the three most important qualities for a county clerk.
Integrity is critical. I have a record of, and am committed to, doing the right thing and strictly following the law in all situations, and treating all customers and voters equally.
I am innovative, always working to improve operations, provide better services, utilize technology creatively and identify collaborations and savings for taxpayers.
I am independent, with a record of making difficult decisions and standing on the law and on principle, regardless of benefits or consequences for Republicans or Democrats.
2. What do you believe is the most important attribute of a county clerk: familiarity with election law, working with other county officials, the ability to oversee a large staff, or something else?
The most important quality is to lead a large staff, establishing a culture to ensure services are provided fairly, in compliance with the law and best practices, transparently, and with integrity and efficiency. The ability to lead the staff effectively ensures that the important characteristics discussed above become the standard for the entire office and all operations.
3. Are there changes the clerk's office requires that can be implemented locally?
Yes, some of which we are implementing for the November 2012 election. For the first time, Champaign County voters will be able to early vote at multiple locations, under a plan enacted with bipartisan support and with no additional purchases of expensive election equipment.
For the first time, our election judges will process voters' Election Day ballot applications using laptops (poll books) rather than cumbersome binders of pre-printed paper applications, providing more efficient service with all capital expenses covered by grant funds. Our entire process was developed in-house, using best practices from other jurisdictions, and will save tens of thousands of dollars annually.
Also for the first time, Champaign County voters will be able to log in to our website and securely generate their own individual absentee ballot application online, suitable for printing and mailing to our office. This convenient service saves postage expense and time for by-mail absentee voters.
We have begun in-house printing of all ballots. First implemented for the 2012 primary, the equipment was secured at no additional cost and the process ensures better quality, improved security and over 60 percent savings in ballot printing costs.
Last year, when civil unions were created by the state legislature, we created in-house and implemented online marriage and civil union license applications. This convenient option for customers saves time for both customers and staff and ensures more accurate data processing.
We have returned to printing statutorily required election notices in The News- Gazette, the largest circulation paper in Champaign County. By printing the notices as an insert, significant savings are achieved while providing much wider distribution and better service to taxpayers.
In 18 months, we have made operational improvements in all of our departments, returned almost 5 percent of our total budget in FY2011 and are striving for similar savings in FY2012. We have worked closely whenever possible with other county departments to integrate our ideas and operations. We seek the use of technology whenever possible to improve service and deliver savings, such as an improved website and new Twitter and Facebook accounts.
In the future, we anticipate further improvements and refinements, continually striving to provide efficient, transparent and innovative service to Champaign County taxpayers.
4. Are there changes in Illinois law that you would push for as the elected county clerk?
I am fortunate to have experience working with the General Assembly and excellent relationships with local legislators in both parties. I have been able to have input into legislation affecting our office on several occasions, most particularly when working on implementation of the new Civil Unions Act, and in tweaking the Elections Omnibus Bill of 2012 that mandated early voting on the University of Illinois campus, among other things.
In the future, I hope to work with the Illinois Association of County Clerks, Illinois Municipal League, local legislators and leadership. My legislative goals include general election code cleanup, removing anachronisms, and clarifying calendars, timelines and deadlines for future elections. Additionally, I hope to work with the Legislature to achieve better collaboration between clerks, the State Board of Elections and the Secretary of State's office for faster, more accurate verification of driver's license numbers for voter registration.
5. What do you think the public's perception of the county clerk's office is? If there are problems, what do you want to do to improve that perception?
The public's perception of our office is that it is efficient and responsive to customers and voters. The public consistently provides feedback that acknowledges our imperfections and understands that we act on that constructive feedback to improve our performance.
More globally, for some time, especially at the national level, both parties have deliberately undermined public faith in election processes for partisan purposes.
The consequence has been damage to the public's faith in the fairness and accuracy of elections at all levels. The most effective antidote is increased public visibility of all our election administration processes, improved transparency, and even-handedness and fidelity to the clear standards of the law in all our administrative decisions. This has been my record, including tough decisions that angered many in my own party, and it has been recognized by praise and support from community leaders of all political persuasions. In the future, we will maintain that standard, hopefully countering the partisan poison that permeates our national and state political scenes.
6. Is there a need to make it easier to vote? If you believe there is, are there things the county clerk can do, or is it mostly a legislative responsibility?
Yes, we should absolutely make it easier to vote, and there are many things that we have done already. For example, we worked with Democrats and Republicans to establish seven new early voting locations, implemented poll books to process Election Day voters more quickly, programmed online absentee ballot applications, and I have personally done extensive voter registration and education outreach, especially to demographics least likely to register and vote.
7. Do you think fundamental changes are required in the county clerk's annual budget?
Yes. In the next 10 years, the tabulators and voter assistance terminals purchased with federal (Help America Vote Act) money in 2005 and 2006 will be obsolete or non functioning in sufficient numbers so as to warrant replacement. Complete replacement of all our county's tabulators and VATs is a multimillion-dollar proposition today, complicated and made more expensive by federal certification standards that create effective and inefficient monopolies. In Champaign County, we have begun discussing the need to plan for that capital expenditure, but have been unable to take action yet.