Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Monday July 25th, 2016, 12:45pm

Chicago Election Board Sued Over Alleged 'Discrepancies, Improprieties' During Post-Primary Election Audit

A federal lawsuit was filed last week against the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, alleging "discrepancies and improprieties" occurred during the audit of the March 15 primary returns.

The law firm Gregory E. Kulis & Associates, Ltd. brought the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of five individuals with the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project who were credentialed to monitor the audit, plus an early voter whose ballot was cast at a downtown Chicago polling site with an electronic voting machine subject to the audit.

The audit was conducted March 23 through March 29 at the Chicago Election Board's warehouse on Pershing Road, according to the lawsuit, which names the election board and its general counsel as defendants.

Election authorities in Illinois are required to conduct a post-election test of "voting devices and equipment in 5 percent of the precincts within the election jurisdiction, as well as 5 percent of the voting devices used in early voting," the lawsuit states.

The 5 percent audit, according to a statement from the plaintiffs' attorneys, is "a public 'recount' of sorts where the 'official' results generated by the electronic equipment are compared with a 'paper tape' printout of the votes cast on a particular machine.

"If the 'official' record from the voting machines does not match the 'paper tape,'" the statement continued, "a report is required to be prepared and submitted to the State Board of Elections."

The lawsuit alleges that audit monitors observed discrepancies between the paper tape and official results from the electronic voting machines used by early voters.

Those who conducted the audit "had a clear practice and policy to confirm the 'official' results generated by the electronic voting equipment even where it did not align with the 'paper tape' printout of the votes actually cast," reads the statement from Gregory E. Kulis & Associates. 

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the audit monitors named in the suit "observed a pervasive and widespread pattern during the statutory 5 percent 'audit' of the Direct Recording Electronic Voting Systems of individuals acting on behalf of defendant Chicago Board of Elections discarding votes, changing votes to meet a preordained tally, and other similar tactics that had the effect of depriving individuals who voted using said Direct Recording Electronic Voting Systems machines of their Constitutionally-protected rights to vote for candidates of their choosing."

The lawsuit further alleges that election board staffers who participated in the audit actively sought "to hinder or outright prevent the plaintiff monitors from monitoring and documenting the aforementioned discrepancies and improprieties."

Among other accusations, audit monitors named in the lawsuit claim they were physically obstructed from "viewing the individual performing the tallies," prevented from "photographing or otherwise documenting" the tally sheet results and witnessed talliers "bending or obscuring their tally sheets in a manner to shield them from" their view.

"Despite the fact that credentialed monitors observing these discrepancies brought them to the attention to James Scanlon, general counsel to the Chicago Board of Elections, Mr. Scanlon refused to operate a proper audit, interfered with the monitoring of this audit and allowed the tally to be changed to the 'official' results," the plaintiffs' attorneys alleged.

"Several of these monitors also attempted to object to the official tally before it was 'certified' by the Chicago Board of Elections," their statement continued. "The board would not hear their objections and the improper results were certified without the opportunity for meaningful public participation."

The suit seeks class certification covering all individuals whose early voting ballots for the March 15 primary were cast electronically at the downtown Chicago location.

Plaintiffs also want declaratory and injunctive relief "requesting that the Chicago Board of Elections be ordered to comply with the Illinois statute in conducting a proper audit of the voting both now and in the future."

James Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, released the following statement to Progress Illinois on Friday:

The Chicago Election Board feels extremely confident that the staff completed a thorough and proper audit following the March 15, 2016 Primary. Further, the audit confirmed the accuracy of all of the results from the early voting and election day balloting equipment that the State Board of Elections designated for the audit, at random. At the conclusion of the audit, all of the paper ballots from the early voting touch screens and the paper ballots from the election day optical-scan equipment were sealed, and those records remain under seal.

We have no comment on the lawsuit, beyond the fact that we look forward to responding in court.

Image: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

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