The Cook County Clerk’s office and the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners have taken the first step toward acquiring new voting equipment that would replace the county’s current punchcard system.
The two election jurisdictions, comprising more than 5,100 precincts and three million voters, have issued a joint Request For Proposal outlining the needs of future elections here. The RFP has been sent to more than 30 manufacturers and vendors of voting equipment throughout the country.
"We're looking for a system that is secure and that makes it easy for voters to cast ballots, easy for disabled voters to use without assistance, and easy for election judges to operate," said Cook County Clerk David Orr.
Chicago Election Chairman Langdon Neal said that one of the biggest challenges facing both jurisdictions in converting to a new voting system is to ensure that voters have confidence that their votes will be counted "fairly and accurately."
The RFP specifies that any new voting system must comply with the Help America Vote Act, which states that all new voting equipment must come equipped with error detection technology. In addition, every polling place must have at least one voting machine that allows physically disabled voters to cast ballots independently and privately. To comply with HAVA, and to qualify for federal funds, the new voting system must be in place for the March 21, 2006 Primary Election. Each jurisdiction will qualify for millions of dollars in federal funding to acquire the new voting equipment.
Chicago and suburban Cook County will continue to use punchcards in the November 2, 2004, Presidential election. However, this punchcard equipment allows voters to scan their ballots for possible errors and to make corrections.
The "second chance" voting procedure was implemented following the 2000 election when the City and County went to Court to seek permission to activate these safeguards.
The requests for proposals for new voting equipment must be received by the election jurisdictions by July 21, 2004. It is anticipated that any new system would be tested during 2005.