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Illinois Election Officials Increase Security Ahead of Primary

With some early voting options opening up as early as next week, Illinois election officials are making assurances to the public that they’ve beefed up security measures. 

Photo by Aaron Cynic.

“We strive to instill confidence in our elections which represent the bedrock of our government and the strength we project around the world,” Marisel Hernandez, chair of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, told WTTW on Monday

Russian hackers penetrated the Illinois’ election database in 2016, stealing data that included the names, addresses, birthdates, and partial social security numbers of some 500,000 voters in the state. Though a thorough investigation revealed that no votes were tampered with, state and local officials have been concerned the attempt could erode the public’s confidence in elections. 

“The troll farm in St. Petersburg is robust,” Chicago Congressman Mike Quigley told NBC5. “And they have extraordinary capabilities that we need to be mindful of.” 

Quigley secured $425 million for Election Security Grants that’s been doled out to election authorities across the country. “Since Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, it has been clear that we need to take significant steps to safeguard our election process,” Quigley said in a December press statement announcing 2020 funding packages. “This funding will help state and local governments protect our democracy and guarantee that every American’s voice is heard.”

In addition to increased online security measures, Chicago will be rolling out new voting machines. The machines will still feature a paper ballot, but when the ballots are scanned they will not only be counted but an image of the ballot will be stored. 

“It’s a much more modern device,” Chicago Board of Elections spokesperson Jim Allen told WTTW. “You’re going to be making your selections, and then you’re going to print out your ballot and then you’re also going to feed that into a ballot scanner.”

Governor JB Pritzker said Illinois is also receiving additional funds to improve voting security, and that the state is working with all 108 election authorities to implement best practices. “That means continually working to improve security, because the attacks will continue to adapt, and to change,” Pritzker told CBS2 on Monday.

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