The monthly meeting of the Peoria County Election Commission was held with all commissioners present except for Sandra Burke. The public comment portion included several people concerned about voter fraud and unfulfilled FOIA requests. Also, the NAACP spoke in favor of keeping prepaid vote by mail envelopes.
Delivery of election equipment for both the primary and general elections will be done by Federal Warehouse. They have done it well in the past and were the only bid this year. The cost will be $14,100, up $3000 for the June election because it is their busy season for moving.
The Commission voted to use the 30,000 preprinted vote by mail envelopes already in house for the two 2022 elections, then remove the mailing permit in future elections. The motion passed 3 to 1 with Commissioner Bartolo voting “no.”
1850 vote-by-mail ballots had been sent out by the time of the meeting, with two-thirds already returned. Director Tom Bride thinks early voting will surpass totals from 2018. Unfortunately, the two new drop boxes will not be installed in time for the June 28 primary due to issues with an intergovernmental agreement. They should be available for the general election in November. The Commission is still short of judges, especially Republican judges. One reason is the lack of student judges at this time.
The federal government’s security grant money was used to build a window overlooking the tabulation room and to purchase cameras and fire suppressant for the drop boxes.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
The quorum of the monthly meeting included only Commissioners Manning, Bartolo, and Williamson in attendance. Discussion on the payment of returned vote by mail ballots was deferred until next month because Commissioner Burke has some input but could not attend the May meeting.
During his report of the executive director, Tom Bride told the Board that primary ballots to be sent overseas would go out on Saturday, May 14, and early voting would start May 19. Training on the new voting equipment is continuing throughout the month of May. Staff is still working through various issues such as provisional ballots.
In addition to the dropbox at the Election Office, two more boxes will be located at the Civic Center Box Office and the North Branch Library in Peoria. They will be available for two weeks starting June 13. They have not yet been installed, and will have a better camera. Staff is working on an intergovernmental agreement with the library and will probably have one as well with the Civic Center. There was a short discussion about the possibility of people putting many ballots in a drop box at one time. Director Bride assured the Board that each ballot goes through the same vetting process, checking signatures against those on file.
Cardboard voting booths have been procured from St. Louis County and will be used until permanent ones arrive from the vendor.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
The Peoria County Election Commission met on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, with Commissioner Burke absent. In his report, Director Tom Bride stated that almost all of the new voting system has been delivered. The printers had arrived, and the pollbooks were due in a few days. Staff is working on various processes, such as how to handle provisional ballots. Training will occur later this month, followed by a mock election with the judges. Tentatively, there will be an open house for the press and possibly the public. The Peoria office has been coordinating with DuPage County because they are the only other jurisdiction in Illinois using the same voting system.
During the discussion on whether to continue using prepaid envelopes for Vote by Mail, it was decided that the current supply would be used for the upcoming primary and general election.
New voting booths will not be available until July 1, due to a shortage of aluminum for the legs. Staff is looking to borrow booths from St. Louis County and/or Indiana, since they will have completed their primaries. Hopefully, the only cost will be for transportation.
At the State level, objections are still being handled. No voting bills were passed by the State Legislature this spring, but some may come up either in the veto session or next spring. Things that had been discussed include vote centers and pre-paid postage for vote by mail.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
The Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners met Tuesday, March 8, 2022, with Commissioners Manning, Williamson, and Bartolo present. The Commission website now lists candidates who have filed for various positions in the County, including Peoria School District 150. Filings are scheduled to close on Monday, March 14, at 5:00. Everyone who was in line at 8:00 am on the 7th and has an opponent will go into a lottery to determine whose name appears first on the ballot.
The new voting system has arrived except for a few pieces that were to arrive later that week. First, everything will be tested to assure they are working properly. This includes voting equipment, printers, and other equipment. The following week staff will be trained on the equipment. Training for judges will take place in April, followed by a mock election mid-month.
Pollbooks will be tested around the first of April.
After attending a run through of the equipment in DuPage County last month, Director Tom Bride said the slowest point of the election process is checkin. There are also discussions on ways to work with handicapped voters. The old equipment goes back to the vendor for recycling.
The only legislation in the works concerns tweeks and the clean up of language in previous bills.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
The Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners met on Tuesday, February 8, 2022, with a quorum of three. Commissioners Bartolo and Ketterer were absent.
In his monthly report, Director Tom Bride said that there would be a kickoff meeting for the new voting system the following day. A calendar will be determined through the primary in June. On the 15th, he and Elizabeth Gannon will be going to DeKalb County to observe a mock election on the Hart equipment, which is the same equipment that Peoria County will be getting. DuPage and Peoria Counties are the only voting entities in Illinois doing ballot on demand.
New voter registration cards will be sent out. They are not forwardable and are sent back to the Voting Commission as undeliverable if the person doesn't live at that address anymore. Those voters whose cards were "undeliverable" are then sent a letter that can be forwarded, telling the voter that they need to change their voting address.
Peoria has been visited by Cybersecurity personnel from the federal Department of Homeland Security. They evaluated the local election office and made a few recommendations, mostly having to do with documentation. They gave an active shooter seminar, but found no necessary changes.
On Friday, January 14, 2022, the Board of Elections voted to approve the precinct boundaries as presented on Tuesday. Lines are drawn based on registered voters, not the census, but work had to wait for State and Federal districts to be drawn before finalizing the county. Executive Director Tom Bride feels resources will be allocated better with fewer precincts. Based on projected early and mail-in ballots, approximately 50% of voters will not be at polling places on election day. Concern was expressed by Commissioner Williamson that there be enough equipment at the larger polling places to avoid long lines. Precincts can be subdivided in the future if that proves necessary.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
The Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners met on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, with four members in person and Mark Keterer participating by phone. Contract negotiations for the new voting system were almost complete. The purchase passed two county committees unanimously, and the budget amendment allowing the purchase was to be voted on by the whole County Board on Thursday.
Most of the meeting was taken up by an explanation of the new County precinct boundaries. State law requires precincts to have approximately 1200 registered voters per precinct. This would result in a reduction from 169 precincts to 116 in the County. In addition to other considerations, there can be no crossing of township lines. Chillicothe and Elmwood will see no changes.
Staff was currently working on polling places, trying to make only small adjustments. They considered how much parking and how much equipment would be needed at each polling place due to larger numbers of registered voters.
The proposed precinct lines can be found on line at the County website 2020 Peoria County Board Redistricting (2022 Election) | Peoria County GIS (arcgis.com)
Irene Pritzker, Observer
The Peoria County Election Commissioners held their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, December 14, 2021, with Mark Ketterer sitting in for Chairman Jim Manning, who was absent. There were a few public comments covering some of the topics that were later discussed.
The Board voted to approve the ability of the Executive Director to negotiate and enter a contract, with the advice of the State’s Attorney’s Office, on updates to the ePollbook system. This would include services, license and support, warranty, and maintenance. The contract would include 130 pollbooks, 120 printers, and ten years of support for the Microsoft software. Costs would be $326,734 for the first year and $26,700-30,000 for the next nine years. According to Director Bride, It would be cheaper to do “on demand” ballots rather than printing many (differing) preprinted paper ballots. The new system will also make set up much easier. This expenditure should be approved by the County Board at their January meeting.
Director Bride presented two bids for the purchase of Voting Booths. One from Elite for $41,697, but they would have to build a sample, since they do not have any in stock that meet the Commission’s specs. They projected 90 to 120 days until delivery, but their booths are made overseas. This could be a problem if there is any delay in delivery. A second bid came from Election Source for $58,618.41, but it included freight. Their projected delivery was 24 weeks, but every thing is made in the U.S. The Board chose the bid from Election Source, but requested any contract include possible penalties if there is late delivery. A back up plan for the June election is in the works.
Staff is working on creating new precincts. The State passed a law in November requiring precincts to contain approximately 1200 voters each. This will mean a number of current precincts will be combined and others will be made smaller.
The question of whether the Commission should pay return postage for Vote by Mail was tabled until all members of the Commission are present.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
All were present at the November Election Commission meeting including new Commissioner Jeanne Williamson. The new rules were in effect covering public comments. That agenda item was moved to the beginning of the meeting, and speakers were limited to five minutes. This allowed the Commission to answer public concerns about the integrity of voting systems and the reason why local vendors did not tender bids.
The Request for Proposals went out in February, and two vendors returned bids. They were ES & S and Hart Intercivic. Both companies gave presentations to the committee formed to evaluate and recommend a new voting system. The committee used a weighted twelve point rating to compare the two companies’ proposals. Hart scored higher on 9 of 12 points, including 100% on security. Hart is set up to handle cumulative voting (which is used in the city of Peoria), while ES & S would have to set it up. Both systems would be accessible to handicapped voters. Both systems use secure paper ballots. The Hart system cannot be accessed without a code from Hart, and everything is encrypted. All ballots will look the same whether used for early voting, mail in voting, or on election day. The evaluation committee recommends Hart because of security, ability to meet the County’s needs, customer service, and ease of reporting. The exact cost of the new voting system will not be known until after negotiations. The number of precincts was not known in February when the RFP went out.
There was discussion about whether the Commission should pay for the return of vote by mail ballots. This has always been done in the past, but business reply envelopes do not require postmarks, which is sometimes an issue. A decision will be made at next month’s meeting.
Also discussed was the need to update the pollbooks and provide printers to do ballots on demand. This will also be decided at a later date.
The Peoria County Election Commission met on Tuesday, September 14, with all present but Commissioner Sandra Burke arriving a few minutes late.
The commission approved a three year contract with SOE Software for online election judge training. They provided training during the COVID-19 lockdown and were found to be very useful. There will still be in person training, but the additional online feature will aid with training on the new voting system. Peoria County State’s Attorney’s office will work out contractual issues.
Two proposals had been received that day in response to the Request for Proposal for a new voting system. They were from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the nation’s largest vendor, and Hart InterCivic. Director Tom Bride wants both vendors to come to Peoria early in October to present to the evaluation committee. He is hoping that the committee will present their choice at the November commission meeting. The decision will then go to the Peoria County committee in December and the full County Board in January.
A discussion was held about new mail drop boxes. Political party leaders were concerned about security. Director Bride wants to procure boxes through this year’s budget; number and placement can be discussed next month.
Also discussed was return postage for Vote by Mail. If a ballot comes back with inadequate postage, the Commission is required to pay it. However, 40% of mail-in ballots in the last election were returned through the drop boxes, so there was no charge. The Post Office will be reminded to put a postmark on those envelopes, even though they have postage paid printed on them.
Unfortunately, during the public comment item, members of the public were allowed to ramble on about supposed issues that occurred in other jurisdictions.
—— Irene Pritzker, Observer
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