Chicago Board of Elections Security is “Wholly Inadequate” in Protecting the Vote!
How safe are the elections in Chicago? In April of 2011, a group of citizens from various political parties and the tea party, decided to get an answer to this question by auditing the April 5th Municipal Runoff Elections in Chicago. [i] The objective of the security assessment (the Audit) was to test the enforcement of security protocols that are in place to protect our ballot. As citizen auditors scoring the overall security of Election Day balloting system, we did not look for specific instances of fraud.
Using the Election Judge Training Guide as our guide, a questionnaire was developed that evaluated the Chicago Board of Election’s administration of security protocols at the polling places using CBE’s own procedures. Armed with these questionnaires, we organized teams of pollwatchers to visit 239 precincts during Election Day on April 5th. The results even by Chicago standards were startling. 210 precincts (91%) failed on one or more of the 11 security measures that they were evaluated for, most failed on more the one security item. Perhaps more troubling is our finding that 59% of the time, the CBE failed to secure the ballot box.
Following the security assessment, I wrote a summary of the findings from the audit: Vulnerability Assessment and Security Audit of Election Day Polling Place Procedures for the April 5, 2011 Municipal Elections in Chicago, Illinois. On July 28th, at the prestigious Union League Club in Chicago, Defend the Vote introduced this report for the first time. Historically, the Union League Club has been active in promoting ballot integrity in Chicago and in Illinois. Formative meetings held at the Union League Club resulted in Illinois’s first laws that established pollwatchers as key participants in the election procedures. Defend the Vote’s presence at the Union League Club, introducing the first ever citizen empowered audit, had a feeling of history in such hallowed halls. The event was well attended and resulted in foundations for the first state-wide audit to be laid.
Following this meeting, the Vulnerability and Assessment Report was peer-reviewed by Argonne National Laboratory's prestigious Journal of Physical Security. Currently in the pre-press phase, the Journal will publish our report during the first week of October 2011. Defend the Vote is honored to be reviewed and published by the Journal of Physical Science and we look forward to responding to comments related to our publication.
Roger G. Johnston, Ph.D., CPP, is head of the Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT) at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. Johnston in reviewing the Vulnerability Assessment report found that the “Chicago Board of Elections security protocols are wholly inadequate in securing the ballot.” Dr. Johnston’s team has used simple techniques to violate the physical security of ballot equipment proving just how vulnerable they are to interference. Most recently, Dr. Johnston has successfully broken into the Diebold voting machine.
Dr. Johnston will be working with Defend the Vote as part of the Voter Auditor Pollwatcher, the VAP. The VAP will train voters across the State of Illinois on polling place security. Qualified voters will receive pollwatching credentials and evaluate their polling place’s security after they have completed voting. The VAP program will extend its security assessment to all election districts across the State of Illinois for the Primary and General Election in 2012.
Defend the Vote believes that elections should be governed by “Best Practices” that are based on security. Ultimately, it is up to the citizens to hold election authorities accountable for ballot security. Join Dr. Johnston and Defend the Vote by signing up to become a VAPer and helping us score the State of Illinois on ballot security in 2012.
[i] Along with the guidance and support of Jack Roeser and Champion News.