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Cook County Getting New Voting Machines For First Time In 13 Years

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Cook County new voting machines

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough unveils one of the new voting machines to be used in Oak Park, River Forest and Proviso Township on April 2.

Marley Arechiga

Some Cook County voters will soon get new voting machines for the first time since 2006.

The county’s elections office is piloting 147 machines in Oak Park, River Forest and Proviso Township on April 2, the next election day. The machines will be rolled out to the rest of Cook County in 2020.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough said Tuesday the new machines will streamline the voting process.

“We expect that these machines will speed up tabulation of votes at the end of the night,” she said. “And any issues with ballots that occur on election day or with mail ballots should be resolved quicker and more efficiently.”

The freestanding machines allow up to three voters to cast their ballots simultaneously, two by touch screen and one by paper.

One of the touch screens is a standard voting station while the other is accessible to voters with disabilities.

Each screen and scanner area is shielded by foldable panels for privacy.

After a ballot is cast on the touch screen, the machine captures a digital image and prints a hard copy of the completed ballot. An election judge initials the ballot and gives it to the voter, who then submits it to the machine.

“The paper ballot itself is unhackable, it’s auditable and it keeps our elections secure,” Edmund Michalowski, deputy clerk of elections, said.

No component of the new machine is connected to the internet, which the elections office said lowers the security risk.

Yarbrough said she is excited about the new machines because they make it easy for voters to see the process of casting and printing their ballots.

The three townships piloting the new machines were selected for their proximity to the clerk’s equipment warehouse, which will allow quick response times by technicians if any issues arise on election day.

As of Tuesday, more than 26,000 suburban Cook County voters have cast early voting ballots.

Marley Arechiga is a news intern for WBEZ. Follow her@marleyarechiga.

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