Engaging the Chicago Board of Elections on Ballot Security

Barrington Hills resident Sharon Meroni has made ballot integrity a major goal in her life.

Colleague Steve Boulton attended her presentation to the Chicago Board of Elections and wrote the following article, reprinted here with permission of the author

Defend The Vote: Great News from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners on Ballot Security Improvements

Sharon Meroni

Defend The Vote had an excellent day yesterday at a long-awaited session with the full Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Sharon Meroni, Executive Director of Defend The Vote, addressed the Commissioners on behalf of the organization, dong a simply marvelous job.

Sharon is now very knowledgeable about the details, procedures and voting equipment as a result of one and one-half years of nearly full time investigation and analysis.

She is now bringing that hard-won knowledge to bear in seeking key changes to improve ballot security.

She quite obviously has the respect of the Board and its staff, I believe because she has “walked the walk” on ballot integrity and can speak to them at their own sophisticated levels, and now knows the topics in detail.

At the meeting, to the stunned but happy surprise of Sharon, myself (as Chairman of Defend The Vote), and our assembled supporting spectators, we learned that the Commissioners have not only considered the deep concerns raised by Defend the Vote over the past months, they have acted on more than one with important change to improve ballot security in Chicago beginning now in 2012.

Sometimes fighting the good fight gets results!

1. Precinct Polling Place Ballot Security. Over the past two years, Defend The Vote and the Chicago Republican Party conducted a lengthy investigation of ballot security protocols for polling places and the security measures used to secure ballot boxes, finding major avenues for vote fraud.

Sharon’s work was financed by Champion News.

Then, in April 2011, Defend The Vote used this newly gained knowledge to conduct a surprise audit of Chicago polling places in the Chicago Municipal Runoff election.

In assessing well over 200 precincts, the Audit found major lapses in ballot security at 90% of the polling places, and 58% of the polling places had unsealed ballot boxes. The findings were put in a 43 page report by DTV Executive Director Sharon Meroni that was published in the peer review Journal of Physical Security, of the Argonne National Laboratory.

As a direct result of that work and the Audit, the Board has substantially revised and upgraded its polling place security procedures, particularly with regard to the multiple security seals used on ballot box equipment, which was a major area of concern.

The Board is even going so far as to buy new seals which will be more difficult to compromise, and will be recording serial numbers of all seals on all ballot boxes, thereby closing a major security loophole.

From now on, any seals removed and/or replaced for any reason must be kept and tendered back to the Board, along with explanations. It is a major victory for ballot security in Chicago!

2. Early Voting. A huge ruckus erupted at one Early Voting site in Chicago in the 2010 General Election, in the 35th Ward (Logan Square).

It was based on concerns that correct procedures were not being followed by the site supervisor.

Chicago GOP Chairman Eloise Gerson was a near-daily visitor at the the 35th Ward site to inspect the voting, and I myself was forced to spend many hours poll watching there in October 2010 to keep things on the straight and narrow.

As a result of that situation, and a resulting further investigation by Defend the Vote and the Chicago Republican Party, sharp concern was raised over the fact that the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners only used employees to run Early Voting sites, not actual sworn and qualified Election Judges.

The employees are not required to meet the qualifications of Election Judges.

The concern was only heightened when it was discovered in an investigation in late 2010 and early 2011 that foreign national employees of the Board were acting as supervisors and clerks at Early Voting sites, frequently deciding if U.S. citizens could vote or not.

One such employee was the very Supervisor at the 35th Ward Early Voting Site who was the center of the controversy in 2010.

Later in 2011, Chairman Gerson issued a lengthy letter to the Board detailing our findings and demanding that the Board scrap the use of employees (though legally permitted under the Election Code), to use only qualified and sword Election Judges at Early Voting sites.

The Board has agreed to make key changes.

  • First, the Board has agreed that no foreign national Board employees will be assigned to work at Early Voting sites.
  • Second, one Democratic and one Republican Election Judge will be present at each Early Voting site, with full power to make complaint and demand action by the Board and its field investigators, as a check on abuses at Early Voting sites.

We see this as a major improvement in the integrity of the Early Voting system!

3. Electronic Voting and Electronic Vote Counting. This was a lengthy and open discussion at the Board Meeting.

Sharon expressed the substantial overall concerns of DTV with electronic voting (which is banned in many countries, such as Germany) based on possible ease of tampering, giving specific examples of what we see as flaws in the current system.

The Board would not agree that electronic voting was demonstrably insecure, but agreed to continued discussion with DTV to air and investigate the matters we have raised, which run into key specifics of current machine operation, as well as known examples and testimony regarding the ease of computer tampering with vote counts.

The City and Cook County have invested heavily in new electronic systems, so substantial evidence of flaws will be required.

This must be considered a work in progress.

In all, we believe the Board has made concrete, important and genuine steps to address ballot security concerns.

Just as importantly, the Board welcomed constructive engagement with DTV on the issues we have raised.

As Chairman of Defend The Vote, at the close of the public discussion I rose and thanked the Commissioners not only for the important improvements implemented for 2012, but also for their openness to dialogue and suggestions.

There is far to go, as several important areas of concern and investigation remain to be explored.

But this was a great start and a very good day for Chicago voters!


Engaging the Chicago Board of Elections on Ballot Security — 2 Comments

  1. Thanks and applause to the people who fight the good fight – especially in Illinois!

  2. why are election ballots kept for one year? why are they kept at all?

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