Friday, June 3, 2005

Cook County, IL to implement new paper-based voting system

Cook County, Illinois is the third largest electoral jurisdictions in the nation, home to the city of Chicago, and a longtime user of the punch card voting system. The county is divided into two electoral jurisdictions -- Suburban Cook County and the City of Chicago. This week, both jurisdictions announced they plan to replace their punch card voting system with Sequoia's paper-based, optical scan voting system and one touchscreen per polling place with a voter-verified paper trail printer attached. Under Illinois law, any electronic balloting must be accompanied by a voter-verified paper audit trail.

This decision is another major victory for advocates of election verification. Cook County could have moved to all-electronic voting, but instead has chosen to rely primarlily on an improved paper-based voting system. This decision will save Cook County a considerable amount of money. Having one touchscreen per polling place ensures Cook County is in compliance with the Help America Vote Act. Hopefully more jurisdictions will follow Cook County's lead.

Regarding the City of Chicago's decision, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Chicago Board of Elections chairman Langdon Neal saying that while "the old punch-card system is gone," voters will still rely upon "a paper-based system" to vote.

Cook County Clerk David Orr has published a summary of the Merits of Optical Scan Voting on the Cook County web site, and earlier in the week, Government Technology reported on Suburban Cook County's decision.



Suburban Cook County voters will cast ballots in future elections by marking their choices with a pencil or pen instead of punching out chads with a stylus, Cook County Clerk David Orr announced Thursday.

Orr will recommend the county use federal grants to purchase the dual system for suburban Cook County voters from Sequoia Voting Systems -- based in Oakland, Ca. -- for approximately $23.8 million (includes capital costs with a five-year maintenance agreement). Sequoia submitted the lowest bid among three other finalists: Diebold Election Systems of North Canton, Ohio; Election Systems and Software (ES&S) of Omaha, Neb.; and Hart Intercivic of Austin, Texas.

"Optical scan voting is intuitive and easy for voters to use," said Orr, whose office has scrutinized various voting systems for the past two years. "Currently, more voters cast ballots using optical scan equipment than on any other system in the country. Optical scan voting is accurate, secure and the most affordable system on the market."

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