In an effort to limit errors and make reduce voter confusion on Election Day, Cook County Clerk David Orr urged voters to check their ballots for hanging and dimpled chads after they finish making their selections.
"It’s quick, easy and goes a long way to ensuring an accurate vote count," said Orr who encourages voters to examine their ballots in the voting booth before inserting their ballot into the ballot counter. "Ever since the Florida presidential election, voters know how to spot a loose chad that hasn’t been dislodged from the ballot card."
Posters featuring the animated characters "Chad and Dimples," who remind voters of the importance of checked their voted ballots, will be displayed in every polling place and election judges will wear sticker buttons to alert voters about checking for chads. In addition, "Chad & Dimples" have been featured in print, radio, and television public service advertisements leading up to Election Day.
Last year, Orr helped win a legal battle to activate new error-detection technology in Cook County that alerts voters to possible errors and gives them a "second chance" to fix mistakes. Election results from the 2002 primary election last March show that the new error-detection technology helped reduce the number of ballot errors.
Voters will still cast ballots using punch cards. After voting, voters will insert their ballots into the ballot counter, which will scan each card for unrecorded votes (undervotes or overvotes). If an unrecorded vote is detected, the ballot will eject and the voter will get a second chance to make changes or corrections or have the ballot counted "as is."
The error-detection equipment informs the voter if an undervote or overvote is committed. However, when a voter commits an undervote, the machine – because of privacy concerns – cannot tell if the voter tried to punch out a chad that did not completely detach or if he or she deliberately chose to skip a race. Loose chads may prevent the ballot counter from recording a vote, despite the voter’s intention.
"The only way to be completely certain you did not commit an error is to closely examine your ballot in the polling booth after you vote and before you insert it into the vote tabulator," Orr said.
Other improvements and new items in the November 5, 2002 general election, include:
No butterfly ballot layouts – or variations of them – will appear on the general election ballot. Since the 2000 presidential election, the Clerk’s office successfully pushed for changes in state law that allowed election officials to eliminate unnecessary and repetative language from the judicial retention portion of the ballot. This provides for more space and makes the ballot appear less cluttered and easier to read. The Clerk’s office also eliminated the "No candidate" line that appears in uncontested races, which also freed up more space on ballot pages.
The Clerk’s office has mailed a "Make Your Vote Count!" brochure to all suburban households with registered voters. In addition to voting instructions, the explains the error-detection technology and includes the Voter Bill of Rights. Each voter’s polling place location is also printed on the mailer.
Chinese Language Materials
The general election marks the first that Cook County is required to provide election materials and assistance in Chinese in selected precincts. The U.S. Justice Department notified the Clerk’s office of the new requirement in late July. The designation is based on data from the Year 2000 Census. A total of 37 precincts in nine suburban townships will receive the Chinese language materials, including bilingual ballots, polling place signs, voting instructions, and the universal voter’s affidavit.
The Clerk’s office now has four hotlines for voters needing election information or assistance on or before Election Day. English (312) 603-0906; Spanish (312) 603-6767; Chinese (312) 603-6769; and Polish (312) 603-6770.
Additional Judge Training
To avoid confusion in precincts that include more than one ballot format, or split precincts, the Clerk’s office we has conducted special training session and mailing for election judges who work those precincts. A new "Ballot Style Receipt" has also been created for voters in split precincts. The election judges will issue one of these receipts to each voter in a split precinct, with the voter’s ballot style number clearly marked on the receipt. Judges will instruct voters to make certain the ballot style number on their receipt matches the ballot number posted on their voting booth.
Election Judge Envelopes
The Clerk’s office redesigned and streamlined the envelope system that judges use on Election Day. New color codes, labeling, and sizes should make it easier for judges to determine the contents and use of each envelope.
The Clerk’s office is deploying approximately 200 precinct advisors, assigned to cover approximately 12 precincts each. They will monitor the polling places, assist judges, troubleshoot, and serve as liaisons with the downtown office and equipment repair stations.
Thanks to the efficiency of the electronic transmission of results from the ballot counting machines, the Clerk’s office expects to have the first election results posted online at www.voterinfonet.com beginning at 7:15 p.m. on election night. Results will be updated every 10 minutes throughout the night. Official results will be available November 12.