Illinois Election Security Report
2011-2014: Watchdog for election reform in Illinois.
Projects and Accomplishments: 2011-2014
- Non-Citizens Running Elections: In 2011, our investigations proved some early voting sites in Chicago were being operated by non-citizens. Subsequent follow up FOIA investigations proved that the employment I-9 records for 75% of the employees running Chicago early voting sites were not compliant with federal law, including some of the forms for the alien workers.
- Election Day Audit: In April 2011, we conducted an audit of the security practices of Chicago’s polling places. We uncovered that out of the 239 precincts scored, the ballot box was unsealed 139 times. In October 2011, the report detailing this audit was peer reviewed and published in Argonne National Laboratory’s Journal of Physical Security. Vulnerability Assessment and Security Audit of Election Day Polling Place Procedures for the April 5, 2011 Municipal Elections in Chicago, Illinois
- Election Board Testimony, 2011 – Present: Defend the Vote regularly testifies and appears before the Chicago Board of Elections and the Illinois State Board of Elections, which has successfully advanced positive change for Illinois’ voting environment.
- Early Voting Audit: In 2011, investigations proved Illinois does not audit early voting returns. Our investigations inspired a July 4th, 2011 change in Illinois law: in 2012, for the first time ever, election jurisdictions are required to include early voting machines in the post-election 5% audit.
- Inspired Changes: In February 2012, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners announced significant changes in election procedures; incorporating suggestions from our April 2011 audit report.
- All early voting facilities in Chicago now have a Republican and Democrat election judge present. In 2012, for the first time, the political parties began selecting their early voting judges.
- New Policy: All employees operating early voting facilities are now registered voters.
- Implementation of new employment verification procedures and re-vamping I-9 procedures.
- In April, 2012, I-9’s went from 75% non-compliant to 99% compliant.
- Changed storage, transit, and in-precinct procedures to include new bar code technology with locks and seals to track and secure election equipment.
- Implemented new seal procedures and improved election judges’ training guides to instruct judges on proper seal usage and sealing the ballot boxes.
- Registered Voters: In 2012, our investigations found 16 counties had more registered voters than eligible voters. This fact was widely publicized and the State Board began to enforce and monitor requirements to purge the lists. Since August 2014, all voter registration lists in Illinois have been under the 100% mark. The work is not done; voter registration rolls must be continually monitored.
- Voter Assessment: In 2012,piloted a test-run program that asked voters to assess their voting experience in Illinois and to report issues of concern. Called the Vote Defender’s Hand Held Audit, this pilot tested development of a web-based program adapted to score a variety of voting environments that are governed by different election officials and rules. Using conditional logic forms, we demonstrated we can design a program that is flexible enough to have state-wide usability.
- Vulnerability Assessment: In November 2012, along with Argonne National Laboratory, we conducted a Vulnerability Assessment of the security processes of Suburban Cook County and Chicago. Our joint report was issued in 2013 and inspired changes in both Suburban Cook County and Chicago.
- Problems in Suburban Cook County, 2012-2014: Discovered and proved that Suburban Cook County does not seal the ballots, keep legal custody of the election equipment, nor fully open ballot boxes to the public on Election Day as required by Illinois Law. In 2013 and 2014, Suburban Cook County changed most of these deficient policies. Follow-up is in progress.
- Absentee Ballot Problems in Chicago: We proved Chicago was not comparing signatures on absentee ballots with the voter record in 2012 as required by Illinois law. As a result, Chicago immediately changed their procedures and re-authenticated thousands of ballots for the ongoing election.
- Peer Reviewed and Published: In September 2012, our follow up report was peer reviewed and published in the Argonne National Laboratory’s Journal of Physical Security, titled Election Security: Don’t Start with Fraud Investigations, Start with Security Investigations. This was a follow-up to an earlier report published in 2011.
- Nursing Home Audit: A 2012 audit of nursing home assignments for election judges proved that Chicago and Suburban Cook County were not legally assigning election judges 77% of the time. This investigation brought immediate changes to the staffing of nursing home judges and caused for deficient polices to be reviewed by the State Board of Elections.
- Across the State, 2012-present: Working with local groups, Defend the Vote provided advice about election security to other groups across Illinois and has been a featured speaker at over 25 events. One issue we discuss is developing a security culture and grassroots-based methods to protect the vote.
- Electronic Voting Machine Failure: Late in 2013, we documented that the electronic voting machines in use in Cook County failed the error testing rates and were pulled from further testing and from further manufacture. This research set the stage for the 2014 HAVA complaints.
- Public Accessibility: Late in 2013, after about a year of requests, the Chicago Board of Elections finally agreed to record and upload their meetings onto Youtube. In 2015, we will begin to upload their detailed Board agendas.
- Provisional Voting: In 2014, a new Illinois election bill was pushed through without public debate that authorized provisional voting to be permitted in any precinct within your county or town. Defend the Vote conducted a 4 County Assessment that proved this rule caused significant legal problems in the polling place and the rules were reversed to only permit provisional voting in the home precinct.
- HAVA Complaint: In 2014, our investigations proved that the voting machines in Chicago and Suburban Cook County did not pass the mandated error performance test. We filed 2 HAVA complaints in August of 2014, which are currently in the mediation process with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
- Early Voting Ballots: In 2014, FOIA Investigations proved that Chicago failed to keep a secure chain of custody on the paper ballot scrolls or electronic memory devices when they were transported from the early voting site back to Election Central. As a result, Chicago completely revamped all of their procedures, imposing double-verified custody at each point in the process.
- Election Judges: Our work in 2012 – 2014 resulted in significant changes in how the judges are hired and staffed. These changes are covered in the report filed with the Cook County Party: “Election Judge Report 2014 Mid-term election” and in the report: “Election Judge Association: Summary of Operations 2014.”