DuPage election officials deny records request
DuPage Election Commission officials are standing by a decision to deny a county clerk candidate's Freedom of Information Act request for the serial numbers of more than 100 optical scan voting machines the agency received as part of a settlement with a former vendor.
Jean Kaczmarek, the Democratic candidate for county clerk, says she wants the serial numbers to trace the history of the "antiquated, castoff machines" the commission got from Liberty Systems LLC.
Liberty Systems gave the commission 118 voting machines to replace devices damaged during this year's primary election.
The commission's optical scan voting machines were damaged by ballot-like cards provided by Liberty Systems. The so-called "ender cards" were too thick to run through the voting machines that read paper ballots -- a mistake officials didn't discover until after the polls closed on March 20.
As a result, it took more than eight hours to count all the ballots, leaving some candidates uncertain about the outcome of their races until early the next morning. The blunder also caused widespread embarrassment for the county.
In addition, 167 of the commission's voting machines were damaged by the faulty ender cards. Fifty-seven of the machines were repaired by Liberty Systems as part of a settlement agreement that also terminated the company's contracts with the commission.
Kaczmarek said 110 machines the commission bought in 2001 were broken beyond repair; Liberty Systems in June delivered 118 "like kind" models to the agency.
Now the Glen Ellyn resident is questioning how the commission handled the situation.
"What were they thinking accepting old equipment castoff from other counties?" she said. "Unacceptable. Surely, DuPage can do better."
It's unknown if the commission plans to use the machines or any of their components in future elections, Kaczmarek said.
Still, she filed a FOIA request in June seeking the serial numbers because she wants to determine where the replacement machines came from.
"Were these machines bought bulk from an e-cycling firm for five bucks apiece?" Kaczmarek said. "Or were they cast off and traded in by other counties for new equipment? The public deserves to know."
But the commission denied Kaczmarek's FOIA request. She is appealing to the Illinois attorney general's public access counselor and planning to take other legal action to obtain the information.
Pat Bond, the commission's attorney, says the agency is "in full compliance with the law." He said the commission can't release the serial numbers "to protect and preserve the integrity" of the machines.
"The information is protected," Bond said. "The machines are certified by the state. And the equipment that we have is functional, tested and secure. And that's the reason for not releasing that information -- because it would jeopardize that."
Cathy Ficker Terrill, chairwoman of the election commission board, said the panel is standing by the decision "to ensure the security of all of the equipment."
When asked about possible legal action, Ficker Terrill said, "We're awaiting the results of the appeal."
Daniel Massoglia, Kaczmarek's lawyer, said in a statement that the serial numbers must be released.
"FOIA stands for the principle that the people have a right to know what the government is doing in their name," Massoglia said. " There is no security threat in this information."
Kaczmarek is running against incumbent Paul Hinds for the county clerk seat.
Whoever wins in November will oversee the clerk's office when it's merged early next year with the election commission. State law was changed to allow the commission to be dissolved after Jan. 1 and its functions transferred the clerk's office.