The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the League of Women Voters of Illinois, and the Joyce Foundation have partnered on a project to advocate for Best Practices in the administration of Illinois elections. Through working with election officials and advocates, we have determined the following legislative initiatives to increase the integrity, accountability, and efficiency of elections in Illinois.
As the integrity and security of state elections becomes a national focal point, it is more critical than ever for Illinois to support local election administrators in their work to provide a simple and secure voting experience for all Illinois residents. RFI conducted a survey of Illinois election administrators to assess their practices and needs for future elections. Eighty-five percent of respondents indicated that their most pressing financial need was for new, updated voting equipment.
Most voting equipment in Illinois was purchased with federal funds as part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002. This means that many machines are more than ten years old, and can slow down the voting process with faulty software.
SB 2651 was signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner July 20, 2018, and contains RFI’s voting equipment modernization proposal. It requires all state election authorities to submit information on the age and functionality of their voting equipment used within their jurisdiction every two years to the State Board of Elections. Election authorities are also required to assess their voting equipment’s status as a whole and provide their cost estimated cost for any necessary replacements or upgrades. The State Board of Elections is then required to make the information available to the public by posting a summary report online.
As Early Voting has become more prevalent in Illinois, voters have become accustomed to casting their ballot at any site within their election jurisdiction at a date and time that is convenient for them.
While this method is convenient for both voters and election administrators, current election policies in Illinois require jurisdictions to switch back to precinct-based methods for Election Day. Many states across the U.S. have established “Vote Centers,” which provide consistency and convenience by creating standard hours and central voting locations throughout Early Voting and Election Day. SB 2821 established an opt-in program for establishing vote centers in Illinois, through a public hearing and comment process in individual election jurisdictions.
The Benefits of Vote Centers:
Extend a voter convenience already utilized during Early Voting
Optimize staff time and voting equipment, resulting in significant cost savings
Reduce the need for provisional ballots, as voters can visit any location in their jurisdiction
Encourage higher turnout by making voting more convenient and minimizing confusion
Provide many convenient weekend voting locations in advance of Election Day
In advance of the 2018 Primary Elections, both Cook County and Chicago were forced to postpone Early Voting for two weeks. This was not due to a lack of preparedness on the part of election administrators, but rather due to the high number of ongoing petition challenges that would affect the listing of candidates on ballots. Similar Early Voting delays occurred in DuPage County in advance of the 2016 Primary Elections.
Voters expect Early Voting to proceed as scheduled, but the current system for candidate petition objections allows for the process to be drawn out for months, resulting in potential voting delays. This confuses voters, and even worse, disenfranchises voters who are planning to cast their ballot during Early Voting.
RFI is currently researching this issue, and discussing how the timeline for petition challenges and Early Voting can be improved with election officials and advocacy groups.
Our initial recommendations include these potential solutions:
Move the candidate filing deadline to an earlier date so that there is more time for the objection process to occur
Shorten petition objection deadlines to increase the speed of the initial objection and appeals processes
Consider shortening the Primary Election 40-day Early Voting period, which is longer than the average 22-day period according to the National Council of State Legislatures
Implement a statewide protocol for how to proceed when candidate petition objections continue past scheduled Early Voting start dates
Our recommendations are based on an analysis of the current candidate filing and petition objection system, and best practices found in other states across the nation.
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