Chicago Board of Elections Security Found “Wholly Inadequate”

Argonne's Journal of Physical Security in which Sharon Meroni's most recent article is published.

A press release from Defend the Vote:


How difficult is it for the dead to vote in Illinois?

Defend the Vote tested this question in an April 5th audit of Chicago elections. Results were complied into a report.  This report, Vulnerability Assessment and Security Audit of Election Day Polling Place Procedures for the April 5, 2011 Municipal Elections in Chicago, Illinois, by Sharon Meroni, was peer-reviewed and published by the prestigious Journal of Physical Security. The Journal of Physical Security is published by Argonne National Laboratory’s Vulnerability Assessment Team.

On April 5, 2011 a group of citizens from various political parties and the tea party, equipped with audit questionnaires based on the Chicago Board of Election’s, Election Judge Training Guide, visited 239 polling places in Chicago to score the CBoE’s compliance with their own security protocols. The objective of the security assessment (the Audit) was to test enforcement of security protocols that are in place to protect our ballot.

The results were stunning: 210 precincts (91%) failed on one or more of the 11 critical security measures that were evaluated, 66% of them failed on more than one measure.  59% of the time, the CBoE failed to secure the ballot box. 

Included in the report is an analysis of the security around the memory devices and the seals that safe guard them. The stack of boxes pictured below next to the open door, contain all of the memory devices used in voting equipment on Election Day in the City of Chicago.  Each box has the memory devices for one Ward.  These boxes were observed in this location during two separate trips to the warehouse.

Roger G. Johnston, Ph.D., CPP, is head of the Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT) at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. Johnston has an expertise in ballot security. In reviewing our report, he stated,

“The paper by Sharon Meroni discusses an analysis of election security in Illinois. The findings are disturbing and relevant to elections elsewhere in the country. Election integrity is a homeland security issue and we had better start taking it seriously.”

Further, Dr. Johnston found that “Chicago Board of Elections security protocols are wholly inadequate in securing the ballot.”

Defend the Vote’s mission is to empower citizens to protect elections.  Along with our growing team of partners, we believe that elections should be governed by “Best Practices”  that are based on security over the chain of custody of the ballot and all equipment related to running elections.

With the release of this report we are introducing the VAP program (Voter Auditor Pollwatcher) in Illinois.  This is the first-ever citizen run audit of elections in Illinois. Across the entire State of Illinois, voters will be trained on security for their polling place. Once trained, VAPers will be given credentials and a scoring sheet to take a snapshot of security at their poll. The audit will take about 20 minutes and pollwatchers can be credentialed for multiple polling places.  Audit sheets will be returned to Defend the Vote for analysis and further actions.

The VAP program is only one of several programs Defend the Vote is sponsoring. Defend the Vote first discovered and reported that Illinois has never audited Early Voting for accuracy of the vote. Early voting, 18% of Illinois vote, has never had the paper trail and the electronic tally reconciled. Separately, we reported that the Chicago Board of Elections employs non-citizens to run early voting locations, and that the I-9 employment verification forms for these employees are not in compliance with federal law.

The April audit was endorsed by Champion News and Jack Roeser.

For more information, please contact me at 847 -382-1100 (office)

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