This letter is posted on the Chicago GOP website

 

Chicago Board of Election Commissioners

69 West Washington St., Suite 600

Chicago IL  60602

 

Attn:    Langdon Neal, Chairman

Richard Cowen, Commissioner

Mariel Hernanez, Commissioner


Commissioners:

Beginning in 2010, the Chicago Republican Party, working with other groups, has been investigating election procedures in Chicago with the intent to review, and where indicated seek to improve, ballot integrity.  Please accept this letter as a statement of concern over the current procedures of Early Voting in Chicago elections.

 

As you know, since its introduction in 2006, Early Voting in Chicago has now exponentially grown from a small pilot program to a significant portion of the overall vote cast in Chicago.  In our view, the current practices and equipment used in Early Voting in Chicago is problematic on several grounds, including but not limited to the following:

 

- employing no auditing process for Early Voting, even though election day and absentee voting are audited, and no tracking of Early Voting site complaints;

 

- using voting equipment that may be subject to electronic interference or manipulation;

 

- placing too much power in the hands of a few Board employees who are not known to be subject to any requirements or oaths of office;

 

- using foreign nationals to run and supervise Early Voting polling sites, including decisions on which potential voters will be issued ballots.

 

We feel that the current state of Early Voting in Chicago creates a substantial risk to ballot integrity, with the commensurate risk of election fraud.  We respectfully demand changes in Early Voting in Chicago before the next major election cycle in 2012 to an Election Judge system, implementation of a balloting audit system and complaint tracking system, and institution of a ban on foreign nationals playing roles in Early Voting polling sites.

 

1.  Lack of Early Voting Auditing.

 

As we understand the matter, it is a routine practice of the Board to conduct an audit of five percent (5%) of the vote cast in polling places in any election.  This procedure is designed to detect irregularities.  To our shock, we now know that no auditing whatsoever occurs with Early Voting.   Further, complaints arising from Early Voting sites are not tracked or noted in Board systems such as “Ask Ed.”

 

Given what we have already found as irregularities in the equipment and procedures of the Board on Early Voting, we must respectfully insist that the Board implement an audit procedure for Early Voting before the 2012 primary elections, and track Early Voting complaints.

 

It is our understanding that the Board has requested procedures for auditing Early Voting from the Illinois State Board of Elections, but has received no procedures.  We are copying the Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Elections to express our concern over this state of affairs and our request that the State Board of Elections either establish audit procedures before 2012 or terminate Early Voting programs.

 

2.  Vulnerable Early Voting Equipment.

 

We have fundamental concern over the integrity of touch screen electronic voting equipment currently in use at Early Voting sites and General Election polling places.  As we understand it, the Board intends to expand the use of such machines in the future.

 

Investigators have attended demonstrations of the equipment, only to be told that cellular telephones could not be used near the equipment because it “could affect the machines.”  This occurrence gave us great pause, as our pollwatchers have many times seen election personnel and voters using cell phones in Early Voting Polling places. Indeed, the Board itself communicates with Early Voting sites by cellular telephones.

 

Further, we have reviewed several reports, admittedly unsubstantiated by us at this time, that electronic voting machines are susceptible to electronic manipulation.  We note that other political entities, such as the Federal Republic of Germany, have banned use of such machines on ground of ballot security.  We take no position on the matter for the present, but we intend to fully investigate these allegations. We kindly request the complete cooperation of the Board and its personnel in this matter.  If we find that the machines are in fact vulnerable to manipulation, we will demand that they no longer be used.

 

3.  Early Voting Polling Site Personnel.

 

As we understand the matter, under the Illinois Election Code, the Board has a choice in its application of Early Voting Polling Place officials.   The Board can either use (i) an Election Judge system, as is done in precincts on Election Day, or (ii) use Board employees as voting officials.  10 ILCS 5/19A?30 (2010).  The Board has chosen the latter and hires temporary employees to man polling places.  These temporary workers are often called “Election Judges” but this is a deceiving misnomer:  the “judges” are temporary Board employees, in effect mere clerks with little or no discretion, and are subject to directives from Board personnel supervising the Early Voting Polling Place on matters such as tendering ballots, as with any employee.

 

One area of our concern is whether Board personnel running polling places, and making crucial decisions on permitting applicants to vote, meet the requirements of Election Judges under the Illinois Election Code.  These requirements include:

 

-being citizens of the United States and entitled to vote at the next election;

-being of good repute and character and not subject to the registration requirement of the Sex Offender Registration Act;

-being able to speak, read and write the English language;

-being skilled in the four fundamental rules of arithmetic;

-being of good understanding and capable; and,

-not being candidates for any office at the election and not be elected committeemen;

 

10 ILCS 5/13?4 (2010). Additionally, Election Judges are sworn upon oath in performing their legal duties. 10 ILCS 5/13?8 (2010). We are unaware of any similar requirements of Board employees acting as Early Voting site personnel and request to know what, if any, parallel requirements exist.

 

Another troubling aspect is that the performance of temporary employees hired by the Board is reviewed by their supervisor. Those reviews contribute to rehire, assignment, and promotion, if any.  Temporary employees with concerns over the operation of Early Voting sites must complaint to the very supervisor who writes their reviews.  One Election Judge expressed the worry to our investigators that complaints could be met with retribution.

 

Our concerns came into sharp focus in November 2010 at Site 35 for Early Voting the Logan Square Public Library, 3030 West Fullerton Avenue in Chicago.  The assigned Judges were Mary Louise Hamilton, Richard Johns, Jose Cortez, and William Richardson.  The assigned Polling Place Administrator was Julieta Bolivar.

 

Ms. Hamilton has acted as a Republican Election Judge for many years, and is herself a credentialed Polling Place Administrator.  She was hired by the Board as a temporary poll worker for the Early Voting process for the November 2, 2010 election.  While colloquially being called an “Election Judge” she was at no time told that her powers were substantially different (and greatly curtailed) under the current system imposed by the Board.  She was even told in training that the Polling Place Administrator (who is relegated to a technical function under an Election Judge based system) would only assist the workers “if needed.”  The exact relationship of the temporary workers and the Board “Supervisor” at each Early Voting site was never fully explained.

 

In the first days of Early Voting, Ms. Hamilton and Mr. Johns noted that the “supervisors” were engaged in directing the “Election Judges” in their duties, which was completely different from normal polling place procedure.  Ms. Bolivar took away paper work that was being processed by Ms. Hamilton, and even completed paperwork on cast votes.  A second issue arose when Ms. Hamilton and Mr. Johns noted that Ms. Bolivar had but a loose grasp on the procedures for Early Voting, despite being the “supervisor.”   For example, a blind voter entered the polling place, and it was apparent that Ms. Bolivar did not know how to activate the audio card, nor did she grasp that an audio voter is not an “assisted voter,” which would permit another person to press the electronic screen to cast the vote.  When she could not get the audio card to work, Ms. Bolivar suggested that she read the ballot to the voter.

 

Soon after, a second “supervisor” by the name of Theresa Gomez appeared, and explained her role as no more than “I am here to assist” and that she had been asked to do so “by Chairman Neal.”  Ms. Gomez has been identified as a Board employee.  Ms. Gomez stated at the site that Ms. Bolivar is her assistant at the Board.

Ms. Gomez never explained her role or authority, but proceeded to issue orders to the polling place workers, sometimes in a loud voice, including on the issue of which applicants were to receive ballots.  Not being told that the powers of the Early Voting poll workers were far different and lesser than those of an Election Judge, Ms. Hamilton (and the attending Republican pollwatcher, who took frequent contemporary notes) became concerned with what they saw as invasions into Election Judge authority to decide poll issues, potentially compromising the balloting process.

 

A Field Investigator later arrived to discuss the matter with Mr. Johns and Ms. Hamilton, stating that “this is not like a normal election”, and further stating that they were required to follow the orders of their “Supervisors”, Ms. Bolivar and Ms. Gomez.   It was pointedly stated to the temporary workers that they all could be fired.

Later, Ms. Hamilton and Mr. Johns each informed a prospective voter that insufficient identification had been presented to obtain a ballot under the Early Voting rules, as her record was “inactive” and she had moved, thus preventing tender of an ID with current address.  The workers advised the voter of the alternatives to obtain a ballot, and the voter chose to visit the Board offices to clarify her voter status and vote there. After the voter left, Ms. Gomez instructed the workers to tender a ballot in any future instance, though Ms. Hamilton was quite certain that the prospective voter did not qualify under the law.  When Ms. Gomez was asked by a Republican pollwatcher to show the credentials that allowed her to direct activities in the polling place, she pointedly used a scarf to cover her existing credentials, refusing to show them.

 

At one point, Ms. Gomez accused Ms. Hamilton of being “disrespectful,” based upon a “look” Ms. Hamilton purportedly gave Mr. Johns when Ms. Gomez announced that she would be supervising Site 35 “for the duration.”  When Ms. Hamilton protested that she had said nothing disrespectful, Ms. Gomez told Ms. Hamilton. “I know what you are thinking.”  Ms. Gomez stated that Ms. Hamilton would be reported, and soon thereafter instructed Ms. Hamilton to call “Cathy” downtown.  Minutes later, Ms. Hamilton affirmatively was called by “Cathy from Personnel” who asserted that “numerous complaints” had been received from voters about Site 35.  When a surprised Ms. Hamilton asked the nature of the complaints, she was told they were over “ballots.”  Ms. Hamilton asked about the kind of ballot, she was told “provisional ballots.”  But Site 35 had issued exactly one provisional ballot up to that point, and the Republican pollwatcher never saw any instances of problems with provisional ballots.  Nevertheless, Ms. Hamilton agreed to apologize to Ms. Gomez to keep her paid employment, and did so.

 

On Saturday, October 23, 2010, given the ongoing issues, I asked our General Counsel, Stephen Boulton, to act as a pollwatcher at Site 35, since the regular pollwatcher would not be present.  The presence of an obviously professional man in his early 50s acting as the pollwatcher apparently had a calming effect, and Mr. Johns and Ms. Hamilton described the change in Ms. Gomez as “night and day.”  When our General Counsel requested to see Ms. Gomez’ credentials, she agreeably presented them, but they were not specific to Site 35, being only a general Board employee ID.

 

A third incident occurred in the early morning of Monday October 25, 2010 when Ms. Hamilton returned to Site 35 to open the polling place.  She saw Ms. Bolivar approach the polling place with the white 14EV envelope containing the back-up paper tapes from the electronic voting machines and other important election documentation, which was supposed to have been tendered to the Board on Saturday after the polls closed.  Yet on Monday the envelope was in Ms. Bolivar’s possession.  When Ms. Hamilton inquired about the matter, Ms. Bolivar told her not to worry about it. On a repeated question, Ms. Bolivar stated that the envelope was on Ms. Gomez’s desk during the weekend.  Ms. Hamilton politely asked why the envelope was no longer at the Board offices and now at Site 35, Ms. Bolivar stated that she was not answering any further questions.

 

Upon entry to the polling place, Ms. Hamilton correctly called the Board requesting a Field Investigator, while Ms. Bolivar called the Chief of Human Resources for the Board.  Ms. Hamilton could plainly hear the personnel officer state on the phone “Is that Mary Hamilton still giving you trouble?”  Ms. Hamilton was put on the line with self-identified “Chief of Human Resources” who told her that a Field Investigator would now be sent.

 

The Field Investigator soon arrived at Site 35, and told Ms. Hamilton that “these are not like regular elections,” and that the Board was aware of the 14EV envelope and sending someone to pick it up.  When Ms. Hamilton asserted that she was an Election Judge trying to follow the rules, she was informed that she was not an Election Judge in this polling place, but merely an independent contractor of the Board.

 

Soon after this discussion, a messenger arrived with a letter terminating Ms. Hamilton’s temporary employment with the Board, signed by Executive Director Gough.

 

To be blunt, we believe that Ms. Hamilton was targeted for removal from Site 35.  We believe that her only offense was to object to procedures she saw as inappropriate, given her long experience as an Election Judge, and the lack of any explanation of the actual role of polling place workers.  We believe that she properly called attention to open breaches of polling place procedures, but was punished for this.

 

In our opinion, Site 35 was operated in a sloppy and overbearing manner by Board personnel.  We are concerned over whether this conduct has become a pattern throughout the Early Voting sites across Chicago.

 

4.  Foreign Nationals Acting as Early Voting Site Personnel and Supervisors.

 

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, the Forms I-9 for polling place personnel have been obtained from the Board.  To our surprise, we found that polling place personnel, and even “administrators” are in fact not U.S. citizens. Even more disturbing is the fact that many Board employees tendered Forms I-9 with no box at all checked to declare their citizenship status, yet these forms were accepted by Board human resource administrators.  Please note that the Form I-9 requires an authorized representative of the Board to verify under penalty of perjury “to the best of my knowledge” that the proposed employee is legally authorized to work in the United States.  We are curious as to how the Board was able to complete this requirement when the applicant never checked any box to declare a basis of authorization.

 

Foreign nationals are even used as Early Voting Site supervisors.  The Form I-9 for Ms. Ms. Julieta Bolivar, the Polling Place Administrator for Site 35, reveals that she is a foreign national enjoying permanent resident alien status in the United States.

 

While we have no belief that foreign nationals are inherently unable to perform the duties of a polling place, we believe the better practice is to avoid having foreign nationals participating in polling place proceedings, handling election and ballot materials in the polling place, taking sole possession of voting records, and participating in decisions on whether American citizens may cast ballots in an election.  This more secure status currently exists for election day polling places, as Illinois Election Judges must be U.S. Citizens.

 

To avoid any unfounded charges of racism or xenophobia, please be advised that I myself am a naturalized American citizen from Peru.

Conclusion.

 

Please accept this letter as a respectful demand that the Board institute the following changes for Early Voting procedures, to be implemented in the 2012 election cycle:

 

a. Implementation of a 5% audit procedure for Early Voting ballots, and tracking of Early Voting complaints.

 

b. Implementation of an Election Judge system pursuant to 10 ILCS 5/19A?30.

 

Many of our substantial concerns can be easily rectified by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners changing to a policy of using sworn Election Judges qualified under Illinois law to operate Early Voting sites.

 

We also ask the Board to cooperate fully in ongoing investigations of the reliability and security of the touch screen voting machines currently in use so that a determination can be made on their use in the 2012 election cycle.

 

Finally, we suggest that the Board promptly review its internal procedures for the completion of Forms I-9.

 

Your response to this letter is requested.  If any sort of meeting would assist this process, our General Counsel, Stephen Boulton, and I would be pleased to attend and state our concerns in person.  Please direct your response to:

Chicago Republican Party

47 W. Division St., #503

Chicago IL  60610

 

If you would like to discuss the matter further, our main office number is (773) 235-9467.  Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

 

Respectfully,

 

Eloise Gerson

Chairman

Chicago Republican Party

 

Cc:      Lance Gough, Executive Director, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners

James M.Scanlon, Esq., Counsel, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners

Bryan A. Schneider, Chairman, Illinois State Board of Elections

Stephen F. Boulton, Esq. General Counsel, Chicago Republican Party

Governor Patrick Quinn

Treasurer Dan Rutherford

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

The Hon. Timothy Evans, Chief Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County

The Hon. David Orr, Clerk of Cook County

Senator Mark Kirk

Senator Richard Durbin

Speaker Michael Madigan

Senate President John Cullerton

Representative Thomas Cross

Senator Christine Radogno

Reince Priebus, Chairman, Republican National Committee

Patrick Brady, Chairman, Illinois Republican Party

Lee Roupas, Chairman, Cook County Republican Party

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