Orr vows to make voting improvements
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Cook County Clerk David Orr
Cook County Clerk David Orr pledged to thoroughly examine the problems that occurred during last month’s primary and has identified improvements that need to be made in time for the November general election.
Glitches involved delays with transmitting election results, election judges having difficulty with new procedures, and reports of malfunctioning voting equipment.
“We will address any technical issues relating to the voting equipment and provide our election judges with more support in the polling place so Election Day runs smoothly in the future,” Orr said.
The county introduced a new voting system during the primary election that allowed voters to choose between marking a paper optical scan ballot or using a touch-screen machine.
The dual-based system, paid for with federal grants, is required by law as every polling place in the country must have at least one touch screen machine intended for voters with disabilities. Every touch screen machine is equipped with a paper audit trail.
“Both methods of voting were well received by the public and the vast majority of voters did not have problems casting ballots,” said Orr, adding that the election was conducted fairly and honestly, and that votes were counted accurately. “Nevertheless, voter confidence is too important to risk and we must do everything possible to improve how we conduct elections.”
Orr’s office is working with its voting equipment manufacturer, Sequoia Voting Systems, to identify and solve problems. Orr also plans to hire an outside technical expert to review equipment software, hardware and programming. Orr will focus on efforts to:
1. Provide Additional Judge Training. The Clerk’s office will provide additional training to election judges serving in suburban Cook County before the next election. Classes will emphasize hands-on instruction.
2. Create New Election Judge Post. The Clerk’s office plans to assign one election judge per polling place to serve as its “equipment manager.” This judge will undergo extensive training focused solely on the set up of the voting equipment, trouble shooting to fix any equipment malfunctions, and overseeing the accumulation and transmission of election results.
3. Examine Problems with Optical Scanners. We will determine why the office received numerous reports that optical scan machines failed to accept ballots or cause ballot jams on Election Day. The Clerk’s office will examine the programming of the machines, placement inside the voting supply carriers (VSCs), and the quality of the ballots.
4. Fix Problems with the Touch-Screen Card Activator/Accumulator. Election judges reported some problems with operating the machine used to issue touch-screen voter cards and to accumulate and transmit precinct vote totals at the close of polls. We will thoroughly examine the design of each unit, and explore how to make them more user friendly so judges can operate them without problems.
5. Address Printer Issues. Some precincts encountered problems with printers jamming on Election Day. Touch-screen machines, card activators/accumulators and the optical scan machines are each equipped with printers.
6. Review Accumulation and Transmission of Results. The Clerk’s office is reviewing its procedures for consolidation and transmission of vote totals to expedite the reporting of results. Assigning an equipment manager to every polling place will increase the likelihood that this process is successful.
7. Re-test Software and Equipment. Prior to the November election, we plan to thoroughly re-test all components of the election system, including software and hardware to simulate all technical procedures in the polling place and to help avoid glitches on Election Day.
8. Re-evaluate Receiving Station Structure. We will re-evaluate steps and procedures that take place in suburban Cook County’s 19 receiving stations where election judges drop off election materials after their precinct closes.
9. Expedite Retrieval of Vote Totals If Transmission Fails. The Clerk’s office will look for ways to reduce the time it takes to identify precincts that fail to transmit results on election night. We will also develop alternatives for obtaining results from these precincts in a timely manner to ensure a more complete count on election night.
10. Improve Repair Station Response. The Clerk’s office will train more phone operators and provide additional training to repair station staff in an effort to quicken the response time of equipment repair crews out in the field.