City and County voters will use new voting equipment purchased at a cost of about $50 million, primarily with money appropriated under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) which provides funds to replace outdated outmoded voting systems like some punch card and lever machines. More than half of that amount, $25.5 million in taxpayer dollars was used to purchase about 5,600 Optech Insight precinct optical scanners from Sequoia Voting Systems, which unlike the system they replace dont give undervote warnings.
Nearly 120,000 undervotes for president occurred in Chicago and Cook County in the November, 2000 General Election. Officials blamed the Illinois Legislature for failing to amend the election Code to allow them to use the undervote detection capability on the new voting machines. According to Lance Gough, executive director of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, These ballot screening procedures have been in place since , and have significantly improved voter accuracy and voter confidence."
The 2000 presidential election, when Chicago had 72,000 undervotes - more than 7% - proved that giving an undervote warning is important in ensuring that every voters intent is expressed at the polls, said Patrick OHara, vice chairperson of the Chicago Chapter of IBIP.
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Any proposed system must include a mechanism for alerting a voter that he or she has failed to cast a vote for one or more offices or propositions before the vote is finally cast, and to provide an opportunity to correct the undervote, said the specifications the City and County gave to vendors.
More importantly, the 2002 U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Voting Systems Standards require, In addition to the above requirements, all paper-based precinct count systems shall provide feedback to the voter that identifies specific contests or ballot issues for which an overvote or undervote is detected, and allow the voter, at the voters choice, to vote a new ballot or submit the ballot as is without correction. But when the proposal from Sequoia was submitted, there was no mention of detecting undervotes and the final contract doesnt require the Optech Insight scanner to be able to do this, despite the original specifications and HAVA standards.
From the documentation submitted by Sequoia, it certainly appears that they thought it was feasible to reprogram the firmware for the ES&S, thus eliminating the need for the Optech Insight scanner, added Roy Lipscomb, director of technology for IBIP.
In fact, Sequoias vice president of sales, Howard Cramer, wrote to Lance Gough on March 7, 2005: . . . it seems clear that both jurisdictions have been pleased with the functionality of the [ES&S] PBC-2100, including the precinct ballot tally . . . and the undervote and overervote warnings incorporated into the system. In his cover e-mail to the letter, Cramer says, The blended system concept that has really caught fire here is the use of the PBC 2100 to read the Edge cartridges. This seems like the simplest and most cost effective way to accomplish our goals with the least procedural impact on the pollworkers.
Our best estimate is that the City and County could have saved over $24 million using a blended system, said Wilson. Certainly some of those funds could have been used to purchase more technologically advanced systems for accessibility, privacy and independent voting for disabled voters in
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Cook County and the City of Chicago, he continued, saying, Instead, voters have been forced to give up an important benefit of the current system and are paying a steep price for doing so.
The Illinois Ballot Integrity Project is a not-for-profit, non-partisan civic organization dedicated to the correction of election system deficiencies and ensuring fair, accurate, and completely transparent elections. IBIP believes that fundamental to election integrity is the inscribing of all votes (whether by hand or by machine) on durable paper ballots which are easily handled and verified by the individual voter. The voters paper ballot should be the only official ballot for purposes of casting, tallying, counting, audit and recount.
The Mission of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project is to inform and educate the public, media and government officials about important election integrity issues and to promote the adoption of legislation and policies designed to secure the democratic process.