Editor Note: What is the best way to secure your vote in Illinois? Vote in-precinct at your home polling place on Election Day.
Where is the vote MOST vulnerable in Illinois?
Without a doubt, the two easiest places to steal the vote is in mail-in paper ballots and in the nursing homes. I will discuss these MAJOR vulnerabilities, as well as detail the risks of early voting at voting centers across the state.
Early voting at voting centers is a risk – For instance, Defend the Vote auditors proved in 2014 that Chicago lacked a secure chain of custody on the USB memory devices and the paper scrolls recording these votes. When the voting machine’s memory is full, the USB memory device holding these votes and the paper scroll record is transported back to Chicago’s election offices at 69 West Washington.
Our investigation proved that these voted ballots and the USB memory devices containing these votes left the early voting centers unsealed and without anyone signing them out and without anyone signing them in when they were received at headquarters. The couriers secretly transporting these unsecured voted ballots were not election judges, they were paid contractors for Chicago. There was zero accountability.
After our investigation, Chicago instituted controls right before the Governor’s race, but only because Defend the Vote loudly proclaimed the results of our security audit to the State Board of Elections. Finally, after a couple of highly charged meetings, Chicago came up with their “new system” just in time for the Governor’s race.
Does that mean early voting in Illinois is secure now? Since our initial 2011 audit, the early vote is now subject to a random audit. Because the vote is subject to random audits, it is more secure than nursing home and mail-in-paper voting. However, the SAFEEST way to vote is in your home precinct on Election Day. These vote are overseen by election judges and they are counted at the end of the day, right in the precinct, in front of witnesses. The results are immediately posted, and they are subject to a random audit after the election. This means the risk of voter fraud is greatly reduced. It does not stop people from fraudulently voting at the polling places, but it makes it harder for insiders with nefarious motivations to change the votes that are cast in your polling place.
We will be auditing early voting across the state of Illinois for this election.
Approximately 10,000 nursing home votes are cast in Illinois.
How protected is the nursing home vote? In 2012, Defend the Vote proved that in Cook County (Chicago and Suburban Cook County), 77% of the nursing homes were not legally staffed with election judges from both political parties. The vast majority of the nursing homes had only one party represented, and we caught Chicago assigning Democrat election judges (as formally commissioned by the Circuit Court) to serve as Republican election judges for the nursing homes. We also caught election judges illegally storing voted ballots in their cars and not transporting them directly to the election authorities. Multiple residents told our pollwatchers they had not requested to vote and did not want to vote. Considering the lack of bi-partisan over-site, how are these rejected ballots handled when a pollwatcher is not there?
Without bi-partisan panels of election judges overseeing the nursing home vote, we subject 10,000 of our most vulnerable voters to voter fraud.
We were successful in correcting these illegal practices, but this does not guarantee that the votes of nursing home patients will be protected again in 2016. We have initiated a fresh audit of nursing homes across Illinois and will be alerting all village clerks of our investigations.
Mail-in paper voting is not secure and you are at the greatest risk of losing your vote if you vote this way. In Illinois, the political parties like to encourage people to vote by mail-in paper ballots; especially this year. Historically, about 8% of Illinois voters vote by mail-in paper ballots. In 2016, I anticipate the percentage will grow, perhaps even double.
Why is mail-in paper voting not secure? Illinois does not require any audit of mail-in paper voting. Secondly, while the law requires that the ballots not be counted until Election Day, it does not stop jurisdictions from “processing” the ballots.
What is processing? That means the election authorities open the voted ballots and put them through a ballot counting machine and then group these “processed” ballots into batches which are never audited. Accordingly, the election authorities are not supposed to have the processed votes tallied or totaled before 7pm on Election Day.
In 2012, we reported that in Cook County, the memory devices holding these processed mail-in ballots were not secured. After processing a batch of ballots, one pollwatcher witnessed an election official dropping the unsecured USB device into her pocket while holding a printed copy of the voting results, and then leaving the room. Zero chain of custody, and our auditor said he saw the voting results on that paper record before Election Day.
Processing or counting the absentee ballot… is there really a difference? We argue there is not.
Importantly, in our earlier report we stated that the software running these machines is not secure, and that it can be accessed by multiple officials without detection by going directly into the data tables.
This means that the wrong person with the right access can go into the data table and weight the vote or out-right change the vote without being detected. This is especially true because there is no audit of the returns. Thus, a person wishing to commit voter fraud knows they will most likely not be caught. As reported earlier, Dr. Eric Commer, VP of Engineering at Dominion Voting Systems, admitted to us at the September 2016 Illinois State Board of Elections meeting that multiple people have access to the data tables without supervision and without any documentation of this access.
Illinois does not require the mail-in paper ballots to be returned in tamper evident envelopes, which makes mail-in paper voting even more open to fraud. Most envelopes I have seen are lick and seal. There is also no legal requirement on how these ballots are to be stored. In our 2012 audit, we caught Suburban Cook County sealing and resealing plastic containers holding the ballots with the same pieces of duct tape. Suburban Cook County corrected this deficiency after we reported on it…