DuPage election leader warns of long lines at November polls

DuPage County may have to spend more than $500,000 on new equipment to avoid hourslong lines at the polls in November.

After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last two years on special laptops to review and process voter information, DuPage County Election Commission officials say they need more of the devices to avoid logjams at polling places.

Since November 2014, the election commission has spent roughly $770,000 on 416 electronic poll books needed to check in voters at polling places. Federal grant money covered most of that cost.

But Robert Saar, executive director of the election commission, says the commission needs to purchase additional electronic poll books because of the demands same-day voter registration will place on DuPage's 256 polling places.

Between 38,000 and 52,000 DuPage residents will use same-day voter registration on Nov. 8, according to Saar.

Saar told members of the county board's finance committee this week that he's worried about what could happen if DuPage's polling places don't get additional equipment to register people.

"The last thing we want to have happen is that individuals end up having to wait in line for an hour, two hours or three hours in order to register to vote," said Saar, adding that it would take "at least three times as long" to register a voter without using the special laptops.

Saar said he wants the commission to buy 530 more electronic poll books, as well as label printers and other related equipment. The price tag is estimated at $541,000.

Several board members said that's simply too much money to spend right now.

Board member Jim Zay said he wants the election process to go smoothly. Still, he would rather spend $500,000 on the public defender's office, the sheriff's office or another county department.

"This is a budget issue and a budget issue only," Zay said.

In response to the cost concerns, election commission board Chairwoman Cathy Ficker Terrill is proposing the county provide enough money to pay for up to 100 additional electronic poll books.

Meanwhile, county board member Jim Healy is proposing a compromise where the county would pay for about 250 more electronic poll books.

Discussion on the matter is expected to continue on Aug. 23.

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