New Paper Ballot System Hoped to Transform DuPage County Voter Experience

DuPage County
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DuPage County is moving ahead with a new all-paper ballot system heading into the next election.

The equipment, supplied by the vendor Hart InterCivic, is a first for election authorities in the state of Illinois. “The system only creates paper ballots – the gold standard in the election industry,” DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek said. “Voters can have confidence there will be a durable trail of all ballots cast for the first time since 2006 when touchscreen machines were introduced in DuPage County.”

About the Equipment

Kaczmarek said the benefits of the new ballot system are easy to pinpoint.

“All ballots will be uniform which will ensure all voters have the same voting experience,” Kaczmarek said.We are upgrading to the most secure, transparent and user-friendly system on the market,” Kaczmarek said. “There will be no remote access. The system offers automatic counting for write-in votes, ranked choice voting capability, faster and reliable recounts and multiple language options.”

DuPage County has long come under fire for having slower precinct reporting times than those of other neighboring counties.

Kaczmarek said the new election equipment has components that are hoped to make a difference.

The Verity Scan, for example, allows reliable audits of voter intent with digital captures of all scanned ballots, which Kaczmarek said makes for an invaluable feature for audits and recounts.

Board Input

A previous vote on an election equipment contract with Hart InterCivic had failed to drum up support prompting some residents to take to county board meetings to voice their displeasure.

Ultimately, the DuPage County Board approved a contract with Hart InterCivic that provides for the purchase of a new system and allows for implementation and training to proceed.

The decision comes as the county board looks ahead to the 2022 election season when all seats are up for grabs.

Kaczmarek said it means a lot knowing the county board supports the selection made by her office.

“Our current voting system is 20 years old, so naturally our office is enthusiastic about rolling it out next year,” Kaczmarek said. “It was frustrating working with outdated software and equipment – software updates were a thing of the past, parts were no longer available, and maintenance was a challenge. The current system was like an old workhorse – reliable, but slow. Imagine working with a 20-year-old computer or phone, and you’ll have an idea of the challenge our office faced. Above all, we’re very proud to be presenting a new system to voters and election judges in 2022.”

While a previous vote on a contract failed along party lines, the latest resulted in a unanimous decision.

Funding at Issue

Kaczmarek stressed that the county board’s disagreement over whether to support the election equipment vendor came down to funding.

“It was the county clerk’s office which selected the vendor, not the county board,” Kaczmarek said. “The clerk’s election staff confidently chose the Hart InterCivic Verity system and the funding for it was approved by the county board unanimously. The public feedback our office has received regarding the new voting system has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The original bid amount that was under consideration totaled roughly $10.6 million, while the actual contract awarded is an estimated $7.2 million, according to county board documents.

Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.

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