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“THEIR SCORN SETS A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT”

from Sharon Meroni, Defend the Vote, ©2013

The slogan of Defend the Vote is “Empowering Citizens to Protect Elections”

(Mar. 17, 2013) — Editor’s note: This is part two in a series of 4 responses from Defend the Vote directed at the Illinois State Board of Elections letter on January 17th, 2013 regarding election security in Chicago and Suburban Cook County.  These links may be useful. Sharon Meroni’s Letter, Ken Menzel’s Response, and The Problems with Chicago (Article 1)

Cajoling the Illinois State Board of Elections into securing and better legitimatizing the vote has been an experience not unlike raising a sullen adolescent: they pout when you’re right, sneer when they think you’ve made a mistake, and drag their feet to make the changes that will ultimately better their lives. Or, in Suburban Cook County’s case, the security of our vote. In a recent response to Defend the Vote’s November 19th letter to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Kenneth Menzel, Deputy General Counsel of the Illinois State Board of Elections, did all of that and more. “Our review of the matters found a couple of relatively small points which the election authorities indicate have already been or would be simple to address for future elections,” Menzel writes in the introduction of his five page response to Defend the Vote’s letter.

It seems counterproductive for anyone in an administrative role over our elections to trivialize a security upgrade as ‘small,’ especially when you consider what some of those changes did for Suburban Cook County’s elections. But what has changed? Let’s go through it issue by issue, and you can be the judge of how significant Defend the Vote’s efforts have been.

Illinois law has required the ballot box to be opened to the public’s view on Election Day morning for as long as we can remember. This traditional security check is an important way of legitimatizing the vote in the eyes of the public; it signifies the ballot box has not been padded with extra votes and proves its lock is secure. The first issue raised for Suburban Cook County addresses an argument that Defend the Vote has been having with them since March 2012, when we discovered they were instructing poll-workers to lock ballot boxes the night before the election. Their lackluster response was to add the following to their manuals: “If asked, allow pollwatchers an opportunity to check equipment.”

Not exactly what we were looking for, especially when you consider the tone accompanying the Illinois State Board of Elections’ answer to Defend the Vote’s inquiries; their scorn sets a dangerous precedent. How many will ask to look inside the ballot box if they’re being told their effort doesn’t matter, or made to feel they’re just being a bother?

So we pushed again and got an answer, but it’s still not what we’re looking for. The Illinois State Board of Elections agreed that Cook County’s wording for ballot box management was unclear, but their solution is even more unclear; like the sullen adolescent who doesn’t want to admit you’re right, their efforts in revising the manual have been lackluster at best.

Read the rest here.

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