County approves new election equipment contract, despite rival firm’s lawsuit

SHARE County approves new election equipment contract, despite rival firm’s lawsuit
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Voters will have the chance to weigh on on a variety of referenda questions this November. | AP file photo

Residents in suburban Cook County could be the first voters to use new election equipment next year.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday awarded a 10-year contract for nearly $31 million to Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., which would mean an update for the county’s equipment, some of which is at least a decade old. The older technology could open the county up to threats to election security.

The contract first came before the County Board in March, but two bid protests by Election Systems & Software, which has provided election equipment for the county in the past, delayed the vote.

The roll out of the new equipment is still in question. Cook County Clerk David Orr said it’s too late to begin testing the equipment and training poll workers for the November election, but he hopes that testing can begin in suburban Cook during the February and April elections.

Orr called the unanimous vote “a plus for many, but especially for voters.”

“As cyber security threats persist, I am pleased the next Clerk and more than 1.5 million registered suburban Cook County voters will have a next generation voting system with enhanced audit capabilities and a greater voter experience,” Orr said. “This system will enable this office to better defend against attacks, detect them when they occur and deliver reliable election results.”

On Tuesday, Election Systems & Software filed a lawsuit against the county and the office of its chief procurement officer, claiming that Dominion’s “proposed voting system was not compliant with Illinois law, and likewise could not meet the requirements of the [request for proposals], because it had not been certified by the Illinois State Board of Elections.”

The state Board of Elections gave Dominion a two-year, interim approval, which is standard according to a spokesman for the state board. Dominion will have to go two years without any problems or changes to receive a final approval, the spokesman said. A spokeswoman from Election Systems and Software said she could not comment on ongoing litigation.

A spokeswoman from Dominion said the company is “very excited to provide our latest and most advanced, auditable technology to Cook County voters.” On the suit, the spokeswoman said “the procurement department made it clear – twice – that the company’s claims are without merit and the law has been followed by all parties involved. The board affirmed this finding today by unanimously approving the contract award.”

Despite the suit, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she was “grateful that this contract finally reached the board.”

“We intend to proceed with acquiring this new election equipment and the lawsuit will proceed as it does,” Preckwinkle said.

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