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Commissioners

MARISEL A. HERNANDEZ, Chairwoman


WILLIAM J. KRESSE, Commissioner/Secretary
JONATHAN T. SWAIN, Commissioner
LANCE GOUGH, Executive Director

Remarks of Marisel A. Hernandez, Chairwoman


Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago
October 23, 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen of the City Council, thank you for having us here to present our
2019 budget for the Board of Election Commissioners. This budget represents the spending plan
for the busiest year in our four-year election cycle. This is when we are simultaneously managing:
the November midterm and statewide elections and the launch of the February 2019 elections for
City Council, City Treasurer, City Clerk and Mayor.

We are here today to answer your questions about our programs and systems that are
covered under this 2019 budget. We are also here today to talk about the many advances we have
made in the last eight years – and the balloting innovations that other jurisdictions like Colorado
have introduced to provide a voting system that is far more efficient in terms of cost, participation
and voter satisfaction.

Many of the changes we are seeing are rooted in the Board’s Voter Engagement
Community Forum of 2011. That event, which we hosted at UIC, was the largest focus group of
its kind to look exclusively at how we manage elections – and how we might improve systems
moving forward. We gathered more than 130 voters and organization leaders from across the city.

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That meeting sparked the ideas, concepts and discussions that you in the City Council, and
the leaders and Springfield and the Chicago Board have since made reality:
 On-Line Voter Registration,
 Election Day Voter Registration,
 Military and overseas voters accessing their ballots online to then print out and mail in,
 Expanded Vote By Mail,
 Being the first large Illinois jurisdiction to fully deploy Electronic Poll Books,
 In recent elections, the Loop Super Site for Early Voting,
 And soon, full Automatic Voter Registration.

So the Community Forum didn’t result in some blue-ribbon committee report that gathered dust.
No, these concepts, I am proud to say, were objectives that we achieved together. And I want to
thank all of you on the City Council and in the Mayor’s Office, who supported us in gaining these
tangible reforms that help us serve all of Chicago’s voters better than we did a decade ago.

In a moment, I will discuss the recent record-breaking success we have seen with Vote By
Mail and how we believe we can transform Illinois’ election systems to be even more inclusive,
cost-effective and voter-friendly.

But first, I want to review our budget for 2019. Our spending plan reflects several items:

 Preparations for the 2019 Municipal Election, including what we believe will be a large
number of candidate filings and objection hearings.

 Preparations for the 2020 Presidential Primary and Presidential Election.

 Filings for the 2020 Election Cycle, during which the Chicago Election Board will be
responsible again for Electoral Board matters for Congressional seats and the Illinois
General Assembly in all districts that are partly or entirely in the City of Chicago.

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Longer-term, we want you to be aware that we are overdue to replace our voting
equipment. The current 13-year-old inventory of ballot scanners, touch screens and HAATs are
brittle. We are scavenging parts between machines, which are no longer manufactured. Like any
computer that is more than a decade old, these devices are not only at the end of their useful lives,
but their replacements offer so many more advantages and features that we are missing out on.

Newer generations of balloting equipment provide the possibility of paper ballots you can
examine and feed into a scanner in systems designed for all physical abilities. The next generation
of ballot scanners allow for:
 Producing ballots on demand in any ballot style or language
 Ballot-marking systems for people of different physical abilities with a component to
check the ballot through an audio reader before casting the ballot.
 Capturing an image of the ballot as the voter is feeding it into the scanner for
comprehensive audits, even the possibility of a 100% public audit of the election.

In preparing this budget, the Board has focused on the City’s critical need to conserve
financial resources. In 2019, we will be conducting a citywide Municipal General Election in all
2,069 precincts on February 26. Voters will be electing candidates in each of our 50 wards, and in
cases where no one candidate receives more than half the votes, we will have run-off elections on
April 2 between the two candidates who received the most votes on February 26.

The Board’s 2019 budget of $28 million must be compared to the last similar year in our
cycle, which was the 2015 budget when the City was responsible for virtually all of the Board’s
operational expenses during the Municipal Election cycle. This year’s budget marks virtually no
increase since 2015, given that we had a citywide run-off that year and how we are bracing for the
same possibility this year. We also have adjusted our expectations based on our experiences at the
2011 Municipal Election, when there were record numbers of objections filed against nominating
petitions – more than 400, which was roughly double the previous all-time record. We anticipate a
similar number of objections for the 2019 cycle.

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In 2019, we plan to continue the use of Election Coordinators (ECs) because of the need
for tech support for the voting equipment – plus the new and much more intense focus on
accessibility at our 2,069 precinct polling places. This focus on accessibility is mandated under a
settlement agreement that the Board reached with the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure in
inaccessible polling places are replaced and, where that is not possible, to implement remedies like
ramps and door wedges, that will help the locations become more accessible.

Throughout the coming year, we will do our utmost to minimize our costs, even as we
work to adapt to growing lists of state and federal mandates, and even as we stay true to our
mission of administering transparent, impartial and accurate elections for the citizens of Chicago.

However, we will be encouraging the City Council and lawmakers in Springfield to


consider moving toward some of the proven reforms that have worked so well in other
jurisdictions around the country – reforms that have resulted in lower costs, better turnouts and
higher voter satisfaction. I realize that the concept of mailing ballots to all voters may seem jarring
or too unusual. But so too were other ideas that we have grown to embrace: Grace Period
Registration, Online Registration, Early Voting, No-Excuse Vote By Mail, Election Day
Registration and coming soon, Automatic Voter Registration. All of these things have three
components in common with the growing Vote By Mail revolution we are seeing in all of our
Western States.

1) These ideas – like Early Voting, Online Registration and Election Day Registration --
were all unimaginable just 15 years ago,

2) These ideas are now part of our mainstream voting culture in Chicago, and,

3) These ideas are so popular wherever they’ve been introduced that no state has turned
back the clock.

I look forward to answering your questions.

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