Tuesday night’s consolidated elections in suburban Cook County went well, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr, in his assessment of the greatest test of the county’s new election equipment test so far.
“The April 17th elections were incredibly complex,” said Orr. “With 739 races and 2400 candidates on the ballot, ranging from fire district trustees to suburban school board seats, the combined touch screen and optical scan system satisfied voters and candidates alike.”
Transmission of unofficial results was speedier on Tuesday than in November. “Clearly, our hard work paid off,” said Orr, referring to a decline in complaints and quick transmission. Over 81% of precincts had fully reported (both touch screen and optical scan) and 93% of all results had been transmitted by 9 PM. More than 93% of precincts had fully reported and 98% of all results had been transmitted by 10 pm. Over 99% of all results were in by early Wednesday morning.
Tuesday’s election went off with relatively few hitches. A number of precincts had judge shortages. County clerk staff also logged calls about intermittent equipment questions, but most were resolved over the phone and some were as simple as directing a judge to the location of a power cord.
In its fourth deployment since March 2006, the Sequoia optical scanners and electronic touch screens performed more efficiently, Orr noted. Alterations to the equipment and software based on an expert panel’s recommendations, coupled with expanded judge training, made for fewer breakdowns during the day and more efficient transmissions at night.
After the November 2006 election, when some results were delayed, Orr appointed a review panel chaired by former Judge Abner Mikva. Their recommendations for hardware, software and procedural changes were implemented over the last several months.
“I’m extremely pleased that voters like the new equipment,” added Orr. Exit polls conducted by Data Prompt International showed that 97% of voters who used either paper ballots or the touch screens liked the new machines. This mirrors surveys of thousands of early voters across Cook County, where over 99% gave high marks to the touch screens; optical scan ballots were not used in early voting.
Cook County’s voting equipment array has three components: a touch screen, an optical scanner for tabulating paper ballots, and a card activator which totals and transmits results after the polls close. Plus, the touch screens have a voter verifiable paper audit trail, so voters can visually confirm their selections, and the election can be audited if questions arise.
While transmission went faster Tuesday, Orr cautions the public that elections are not certified until May 8th. New legislation sponsored by his office allows clerks to add late-arriving absentee ballots and provisional ballots to vote totals and these may determine the outcome of a few close races. Since turnout for Tuesday’s contests was low—roughly 17% overall—a handful of votes can make the difference.
A 5% audit of the election will take place this Friday, using precincts that are randomly selected by the State Board of Elections, to confirm the accuracy of the count.