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Illinois Election System Challenged.

Since November's presidential election fiasco, Illinois officials and advocacy groups have jumped on the bandwagon with lawsuits and legislation aimed at protecting voters from ballot discrepancies.

In January the Democratic Party of Illinois sued election officials statewide, charging that Illinois' voting system violates the equal protection rights of voters. The suit alleges that the use of different voting equipment with varying error rates means the election system "values one person's vote over that of another."

Cook County Circuit Judge Julia M. Nowicki approved the use of electronic ballot counters in the Feb. 27 suburban Cook County primary election; she later extended her order to the April 3 general election. The machines alert voters to errors before they leave the polling place. The case is still open and Cook County Clerk David Orr is lobbying for use of the machines statewide.

On Feb. 5 the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a national advocacy group, Chicago 4th Ward AId. Toni Preckwinkle and state Sen. Miguel del Valle, a Northwest Side democrat, sued the Illinois State Board of Elections on behalf of Latinos and African Americans in Cook County. The federal class-action lawsuit claims the state's punch card system violates 14th Amendment Equal Protection rights and the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman is presiding over the case, which is still pending.

Some Illinois counties use an optical scanning system, which may be more accurate than the ballot counters. This scanner, which is similar to those used in standardized tests, posted error rates of less than 1 percent in Illinois in the November election, according to the MALDEF suit. In Chicago, which uses punchcards, black and Latino precincts reported error rates as high as 12.6 percent.

Finally, state Sen. Barack Obama, a South Side Democrat, recently introduced a bill in the Illinois General Assembly requiring that election judges advise voters of their right to a new ballot if they believe they have made an error.
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Author:Lewis, Pamela A.
Publication:The Chicago Reporter
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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