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ROCK ISLAND — Republican members of the Rock Island County board are pushing forward with plans to reduce the board's size from 25 to 15. 

Members of the minority caucus met Wednesday and approved formation of a task force to come up with recommendations on how it might be done. 

Minority Leader Drue Mielke said downsizing the board is in keeping with the Republican Party's goal of reducing the size of government. 

"This is not to be adversarial with Democrats," Mielke said. "What it is, is letting them know we are thinking outside the box on all kinds of ways to make sure representation is preserved."

The minority caucus includes Drue Mielke, Rod Simmer, Robert Reagan, Ron Oelke, Richard Morthland, Dewayne Cremeens and Robert Westpfahl. Morthland, Cremeens and Westpfahl were absent. 

"We've got to be careful how we lay out these lines again," Simmer said. "I've got this huge 'L' in my (district), and there's no reason for it. Why didn't they just go two more blocks and take that?"

"My concern is that my district map is drawn for a specific political party," Mielke said. 

Oelke said he went door-to-door two years ago while talking to voters and downsizing the board was the most requested change. 

Voters passed a non-binding referendum by 72% in 2012 supporting reducing the board.

Furthermore, Illinois state statute directs the "Rock Island County board shall develop and complete and apportionment plan no later than July 1, 2021."

The task force approved by the minority caucus will ensure equal representation of ethnic minority voters, political minority voters, and rural voters who rely on township and county services will not be neglected with the reapportionment. 

Mielke said districts will be redrawn following the 2020 census and take effect in 2022.

He said another argument for downsizing could be the drop in population in the state. 

"It should be partial to the size of the county's population," Mielke said. 

"What we need to impress to the public is we are following the will of the people."

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Sarah is a reporter for the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com.

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