Chicago Case Study

BACKGROUND Since the elections of 2000, the jurisdiction used a 456-position IBM-type punch card ballot scanning system which scanned a ballot for overvotes and undervotes. Systems like these were in use across the United States. The Presidential 2000 election called into question the integrity of the punch card system that was used in the state of Florida, spreading concern for American voters nationwide. Although the 2000 Presidential election was not a contentious issue in Illinois, election officials in Chicago found as many disturbing problems with punch card ballots as their counterparts in Florida. A post-election study found that more than 7 percent of Chicago’s voters either undervoted or overvoted on ballots for President. Chicago immediately began a search for a balloting system that would accurately capture every voter’s intent.

Following the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (“HAVA”), the jurisdiction sought election equipment that would satisfy the new voting requirements. This included the requirement of a system that would allow disabled voters to cast an in-precinct ballot unassisted. Illinois law authorizes the use of five types of election systems: paper ballots, lever machines, punch cards, optical scan and direct recording electronic (“DRE”).

The Chicago board oversees one of the largest election operations in the United States.

What Dominion Did.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners approached Dominion Voting Systems for a solution that provided affordability and flexibility. The CBOE could not afford to purchase multiple DRE units for their 2,570 precincts. But they wanted to give the voters the option to vote on the DRE or make their selections on a paper ballot.

Dominion Voting Systems developed a system incorporating both options. This voting system, using the unique tally software WinEDS, creates the ballot for the DRE. The Edge2Plus DRE eliminated the overvote for Chicago. It accommodates multiple languages and over 750 ballot styles for no fewer than six different parties. It is currently in use at every early voting site in the city – with a DRE and optical scan unit in each of the 2,570 precincts. In the case of the optical scan unit, by Illinois law, a voter should receive a warning message whenever a ballot contains an overvote. The system allows a voter to correct an overvote and undervote before the ballot is finally voted. With this solution, Chicago found a system that would accurately capture the voter’s intent.

The timely reporting of election results was also a concern for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Dominion developed a Precinct Transmission System which provided the customer the ability to combine and report election results expeditiously.