Why DuPage County clerk wants to buy new election equipment before 2020

  • Jean Kaczmarek

    Jean Kaczmarek

 
 
Updated 8/20/2019 8:49 AM

The DuPage County Clerk's office wants to buy 1,000 electronic poll books to replace its 900 aging devices and ensure smooth operations during next year's primary and general elections.

But county board members must sign off on the proposal -- estimated to cost $1.3 million to $1.65 million -- because the clerk's office wants to buy the devices before the current fiscal year ends Dec. 1.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With historic voter turnout expected in 2020, Clerk Jean Kaczmarek said highly populated counties such as DuPage must have poll books to accommodate the volume. The devices are used to check in voters at polling places.

Kaczmarek said traditional paper application poll books -- printed a month before Election Day -- don't meet the needs of modern of elections, which allow same-day voter registration, online registration, grace period registration and vote by mail.

She said electronic poll books keep track of a voter's status and allow election judges "to react instantly to the needs of the voter." The devices also eliminate the handling of paper applications.

"Without e-poll books, polling places would be gummed up and potentially thousands of provisional ballots would be issued unnecessarily -- all of which would need to be verified and counted within a two-week period," Kaczmarek said.

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The former DuPage Election Commission, which merged earlier this year with the clerk's office, started using electronic poll books in 2015. The county now has about 900 of the devices. But Kaczmarek said DuPage's electronic poll book license has expired, and the company the county bought the devices from "is dropping the e-poll book business"

Meanwhile, the county's hardware has reached the end of its life.

Kaczmarek said she wants to buy 1,000 electronic poll books this fall so the devices can be delivered, configured and tested in time for election judges to be trained to use them during the 2020 primary election. A "significant upfront expenditure" is required, she said. Estimates from three companies range from $1.3 million to $1.65 million. And because the expense wasn't budgeted for the current fiscal year, the county board must approve the purchase.

Board members won't make a final decision on the request until after a vendor is chosen.

Kaczmarek said all the electronic poll books need to be replaced because, "we would want uniformity throughout the county on this, especially for the training of the election judges."

Kaczmarek said she expects DuPage to receive at least $200,000 in grant money to help defray its costs.

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