Election Security

The Clerk's Office is Your #TrustedSource

 

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Dear Voter,

Thank you for being an informed voter and for taking the time to get the real facts about elections in suburban Cook County. As you know, our democracy has been under attack in recent years from lies and misinformation about the election process, which has caused fear and confusion for some voters.

Here at the Clerk’s Office, we are your #TrustedSource for Election Information. We go to great lengths to promote transparency and to guarantee the integrity of the voting process.

This #TrustedSource page is designed to answer your voting questions and provide you with detailed information on the measures that we take to protect your vote. Please review this information and contact us if you have any further questions!

Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough

  

Election Security FAQs

Why should I trust what the government tells me about voting when there are so many reports of election fraud?

Misinformation and disinformation undermine public confidence in the electoral process and our democracy. Misinformation is false information that people share without realizing it’s false, while Disinformation is false information that is intentionally spread to mislead people. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of websites and online sources spreading this damaging information about voting, the ballot counting process, and the results of recent elections.

The Real Facts are that Elections are administered by state and local officials who implement numerous safeguards to protect the security of your vote, pursuant to various state and federal laws and processes. The vote is a foundational institution of our democracy, and the Cook County Clerk’s Office places paramount importance on protecting it. As the election authority for suburban Cook County, nothing is as important as ensuring voters have complete faith and confidence in the security of our elections, knowing their votes are accurately counted, and the integrity of the process is staunchly defended and protected.

To support and ensure these principles, the Clerk’s Elections Unit is staffed with experts in Election Operations, Logistics, Cybersecurity, and Information Technology. Each member of the Elections Management Team has decades of experience in their area of expertise -- and the Clerk’s Cyber Defense Team is led by a nationally recognized cybersecurity expert. There has never been a successful legal case or court action brought against the Elections Unit or any of its employees alleging fraud of any kind.

Illinois doesn’t require voter identification at the polls, so how do you prevent illegal voting?

Illinois does require identification for voter registration, which is a security measure in and of itself. Registration ensures that only those meeting state eligibility requirements can vote, and the registration system keeps track of who has cast a ballot in any given election. The Clerk’s Office takes great care to keep voter registration data safe, and database traffic is closely monitored and protected.

When a voter goes to their precinct to cast their ballot on Election Day, the signature that they provided when they registered is verified, which ensures the voter’s identity.

The votes are counted behind closed doors – why isn’t the counting process more transparent?

The Clerk’s Office goes to great lengths to make the voting process as transparent as possible and offers several publicly accessible opportunities for voters to observe the process.

Voters may engage themselves as a poll watcher as a representative of a particular candidate, political party or organization.  Poll watchers have the right to observe the conduct of the election in the precinct polling place, which includes the right to listen to instructions given to voters, visually compare the signature in the poll book with the signature on the ballot application, and challenge any voter if the poll watcher believes the voter is not qualified to vote in that precinct.

In addition to poll watching, interested citizens can serve as an Election Judge to work during Early Voting or on Election Day to assist in the voting process and observe election operations firsthand. The public is also invited to observe election recounts and public tests of voting equipment at the Clerk’s Elections Operations Center. In addition, all citizens, voters, poll watchers, and Election Judges have the right to file election-related complaints with the Clerk’s Office. Complaints may be filed over the telephone, in writing, or in person. Citizens can also seek election information through Freedom of Information requests.

How does the Clerk's Office ensure that when a person dies that they are removed from the list of registered voters?

We cross reference our registered voter database with government death records.

Family members will also contact us and provide a death certificate for their deceased relative asking that they be removed from the voter registration list.

Can someone impersonate a relative or person who has died and show up to vote on election day?  How do you prevent that from happening?

The voter database is updated regularly to remove persons whose records show have died.

All voters are required to sign an application for a ballot, and this signature is compared by the Election Judges with the voter registration record containing the voter signature that is on file.  Only voters whose signature matches their voter registration record are issued a ballot.

How trustworthy are mail ballots and how can I believe they are valid?

The Clerk’s Office has strict chain of custody processes and safeguards for the handling of Mail Ballots – beginning with the application and mailing of Mail Ballots – to transport through the postal system -- and finally, ballot receipt by our office. When a voter applies for a Mail Ballot, the Clerk’s Office verifies the application and voter name and address through voter registration records before mailing the ballot to the individual voter at their chosen address.

Mail Ballots must be signed by the voter on the exterior of the envelope before being mailed or dropped in a drop box. Once received at the Clerk’s Election Operations Center, that signature is then verified by a panel of three bipartisan judges utilizing voter registration records.

The judges, who receive training in signature verification, review the signature and must all agree the signature is valid for that voter. The verified and sealed envelope is then processed by a high-speed machine and the ballots are extracted and placed into a queue to be counted after the polls close on election night.

How can I trust those mail ballot drop boxes?

Mail Ballot drop boxes will be located at more than 50 Early Voting sites as well as at the Cook County Administration Building at 69 W. Washington in downtown Chicago as a drop-off option for voters who do not wish to mail their ballots through the U.S. Postal Service.

The Clerk’s Office utilizes a licensed and bonded courier service to pick up, secure, and deliver the ballots each day at all Early Voting locations. At the conclusion of Early Voting each day, the ballots are retrieved by the licensed and bonded courier and counted by both the courier and the Election Judge at each location. The courier and the judge must agree on the total number of ballots, and each must sign and date a receipt and place the ballots into a sealed envelope for transport.

The ballots are then delivered the same day to the Clerk’s Elections Operations Center, where they are once again counted and verified upon arrival. The ballots then go through the above-mentioned signature verification process by a panel of three judges. Once the signature is verified the sealed envelope is then processed by a high-speed machine and the ballots are extracted and placed into a queue to be counted after the polls close on election night.

How can I track my mail ballot to make sure my vote was received and counted?

The Clerk’s Office has a “Your Voter Information” tool on its website that provides key information for a voter. The tool provides details about a voter’s polling place, their individual ballot, the local elected officials who represent them, and more.

Each Mail Ballot that is returned contains a specific code that identifies the voter, and that code is scanned and reported through the return process. Voters can use the online Voter Information Tool to determine that their ballot has been received by the U.S. Postal Service, received by the Clerk’s Office, and placed in the queue to be counted after the polls close on election night.

How can I trust voting on electronic machines?

All voters have the option to cast their ballot via an electronic machine or by paper ballot. All electronic voting machines produce a printed ballot, and that ballot is what is counted (and can be recounted if necessary). The voting machines at polling places and early voting locations do not count the ballots – they are ballot marking devices.

Cook County voting machines produce a QR code that is read by ballot scanners. how do I know that the QR code actually represents my vote?

The Clerk’s Office conducts several different audits to ensure that the QR code accurately represents the voter’s intent. One such audit is parallel testing, in which voting machinery from two random precincts is selected before being sent to the polling location. The machinery is set up at a secure location and run as if it were operating at an actual polling place. The ballots marked by the machine, which have the QR codes, are matched by identically voted ballots that are marked by hand. The results are compared to ensure that they match.

In addition, the Clerk’s Office conducts a hand recount of five percent of the precincts after Election Day to ensure the hand count matches the QR count. The precincts to be counted are randomly chosen by the State Board of Elections and only revealed to the Clerk’s Office several days after election results have been tabulated – ensuring that no County employee or malicious outsider can pre-rig those precincts.

What are you doing to protect our voting system from hackers based in foreign countries like Russia or China?

The Clerk’s Office has a dedicated cyber security group whose sole duty is to protect the integrity of the Clerk’s networks, machinery, software, and data.

The Clerk’s Team also works in close collaboration with Cook County’s Information Security Office (ISO) to ensure the best cyber security practices are being followed.

There are also multiple levels of cyber security in place including:

  • Multiple layers of anti-virus software
  • Software that blocks movement within the network if a hacker breached perimeter defenses
  • Services that block attempts to access malicious websites or Internet domains
  • Regular protective network scans
  • Backup copies of software applications and databases in multiple locations
  • Mandatory cyber security training for all employees
Is a person who has been convicted of a felony or served time in prison eligible to vote?

Persons convicted of a felony are eligible to vote once they have completed their sentence of incarceration.

There are foundations and other organizations claiming that in some U.S. counties the amount of votes cast in the 2020 Presidential Election is larger than the number of registered voters. Isn’t that evidence of fraud?

These organizations are providing flawed and misleading data. For example, the election turnout data cited by one such organization is from the November 2020 election, but the voter registration numbers are from nearly one year later. Given the fact that hundreds, or in larger counties, possibly thousands of people routinely move, die, or leave the voting rolls, this kind of mismatch between data sets separated by one year is normal and to be expected.

It is important to remember that statistical information can be easily manipulated, misaligned, and misinterpreted. Simply presenting data without context can lead to highly erroneous conclusions. It is imperative that voters understand the full context of data that is presented and go to their Trusted Election Source for verification.