Editorial: DuPage makes progress on new voting machines, but has more to do

DuPage County officials took a significant step toward improving the security and integrity of elections in the county when they recently agreed to purchase new voting machines.

But it is unclear whether the new system will help DuPage report election results as quickly as other counties. Because, unlike those counties, DuPage doesn't remotely transmit results from polling places.

County board members on Oct. 26 approved a plan to hire Texas-based Hart InterCivic to replace DuPage's outdated electronic voting machines with a new paper ballot system. DuPage voters will cast their ballots entirely on paper, starting with next year's primary election.

"I have been waiting to say these words for 16 years," County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek proclaimed in a statement. "DuPage County will have 100 percent paper ballots."

The former DuPage County Election Commission purchased touch-screen machines in 2006. Back then, Kaczmarek was among those who said the devices were vulnerable to tampering.

Then, the Glen Ellyn Democrat was elected county clerk in 2018. After the county board dissolved the election commission in January 2019, Kaczmarek oversaw the transfer of its functions to the clerk's office.

"I didn't envision this day coming until I took office," Kaczmarek said about getting a new voting system. "Then I started to see the possibility."

Traditionally, in-person early voters in DuPage select their choices on touch-screen machines. The Hart system will replace those devices and optical scan voting machines the county bought two decades ago.

As our Katlyn Smith pointed out, many security experts favor paper ballots because it's easier to audit the results.

DuPage will use on-demand ballot printing for early and Election Day voting. Kaczmarek deserves kudos for helping to make that happen. However, the new system won't remotely transmit results from polling places. DuPage plans to adhere to a long-standing practice of having election judges hand-deliver data storage devices from the voting machines to the county complex in Wheaton.

Critics have blamed the process for delaying the release of results during past elections. But Kaczmarek insists that DuPage's process is more secure.

"We have always valued accuracy over speed," she said.

That's a fair point. Still, the county has a responsibility to get accurate results as quickly as possible to the public. If results are delayed, dangerous rumors and doubts can fill the vacuum, especially when Cook, Lake, Kane and Will counties report results much sooner.

Kaczmarek says she's examining ways to improve election night procedures, and the new equipment should help. Let's hope she succeeds and we're not left waiting for results hours after the polls close.

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