Illinois: Attempted extortion of elections board executive director involved ‘flirtatious’ messages, demand for $3,000, letter indicates | Ray Long Rick Pearson/Chicago Tribune

Illinois’ top elections official told board members he became the victim of an internet extortion scheme after he exchanged “flirtatious” messages and sent a picture to a person he met online. Steven Sandvoss, who is on administrative leave until his resignation takes effect at the end of June, detailed his encounters in a letter to the State Board of Elections in which he said a threat was made to “ruin” him if he didn’t pay $3,000. Sandvoss said he did not make any payments and the online threats stopped, according to the letter, which the Tribune obtained. Sandvoss, 55, the board’s executive director, has had high-level federal security clearance following a Russian hacking incident in the 2016 election cycle that compromised personal data of 76,000 Illinois voters. Sandvoss told board members that “at no time did I indicate (to the person online) that I worked” for the elections board.

Full Article: Attempted extortion of Illinois elections board exec involved ‘flirtatious’ messages, demand for $3,000, letter indicates – Chicago Tribune

Illinois elections board director to retire from elections board after becoming victim of online extortion attempt | Dean Olsen/State Journal-Register

The executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, the victim of an online extortion attempt in late March or early April, will resign and retire, effective June 30. Board chairman Charles Scholz said at the end of Tuesday’s regular board meeting that Executive Director Steve Sandvoss has announced his retirement. Scholz didn’t comment further except to commend Sandvoss, 55, for 32 years of service to the board. Sandvoss, a lawyer from Rochester, has been on paid administrative leave from his $162,000-a-year job since the board voted unanimously on April 5 to place him on leave. He will remain on paid leave through June 30, board spokesman Matt Dietrich said. An Illinois State Police investigation into the extortion attempt continues, ISP spokeswoman Beth Hundsdorfer said. Sandvoss has declined requests for interviews.

Full Article: Elections board director, victim of attempted extortion, to retire

Illinois: Human error at fault for McHenry County election issues | Kelli Duncan/Daily Herald

McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio released a report Wednesday on the problems his office encountered in reporting the April 6 election results, which led to a countywide vote recount and ultimately changed the projected outcome of several school board races. Tirio presented the report at a meeting of McHenry County Board members Thursday morning and began by apologizing to residents. “I know they expected to have the results on election night, and I apologize that they were not entirely accurate,” he said. “A more sincere, heartfelt apology to the candidates that were negatively affected — those that thought they had won and found out the following day that they hadn’t.” The report gave a step-by-step look into how the clerk’s office was alerted of the issue — causing the votes for a several school board races and other down-ballot races to be misreported — and what officials did in the two days that followed. It also gets to the heart of what caused the erroneous reporting. Essentially, the file used to print ballots was an earlier version than the ballot design used to program the county’s vote counting machines, or “tabulators,” the report states. The newer version had additional information about the term duration for school board candidates. The change shifted the ballot’s text so it no longer matched with the “target areas” programmed into the county’s tabulators, which tell the machine where to look for votes, according to the report and comments made by Tirio.

Full Article: Report: Human error at fault for McHenry County election issues

Illinois: McHenry County clerk releases new, corrected election results | Kelli Duncan/Daily Herald

The McHenry County clerk’s office has released corrected results for Tuesday’s local consolidated election. After a technical error with the office’s ballot tabulation devices led to a full recount of votes Thursday, the new results were posted to the county’s election results webpage just before 12:50 p.m. Friday. These results are still unofficial and will not be certified until two weeks after Tuesday’s election, according to state law. Late-arriving mail-in ballots and provisionally cast ballots could still be counted. Votes for write-in candidates also were not included in the new results posted Friday afternoon and will be posted to the county clerk’s website when they are fully counted, according to a statement posted on the election results page Friday. The candidates leading in five of the county’s competitive school board races — Huntley School District 158, Alden-Hebron District 19, McHenry District 15, Cary District 26 and Crystal Lake District 47 — changed after the release of the corrected results.

Full Article: McHenry County clerk releases new, corrected election results

Illinois: McHenry County clerk’s office figures out why results were misreported | Kelli Duncan/Daily Herald

The McHenry County clerk’s office has determined that the underreporting of votes in certain races across the county Tuesday night was because of changes made to the language on some ballots, which altered the spacing of the document just enough to interfere with machines’ ability to read votes correctly. While officials now are certain this was the cause of the issue, County Clerk Joe Tirio said his office decided to conduct a full, countywide recount of votes anyway out of an abundance of caution. “I’m obviously I’m not in love with the fact this happened, but I’m not hiding the fact that it happened and we’re going to do our best to get the right results out as soon as we possibly can,” Tirio said in an interview Thursday afternoon. Tirio said he had been hoping to finish the recount Thursday afternoon so they could offer post new election results that evening, but the task has taken longer than expected. He said they are on track to complete the recount about 6 p.m. Thursday and then they will need to compile new election results and run some tests to ensure they are airtight.

Full Article: McHenry County clerk’s office figures out why results were misreported

Illinois State Board of Elections director target in extortion scheme | Dean Olsen/State Journal-Register

Illinois’ top election official was placed on paid administrative leave Monday after he told police he was the subject of an attempted extortion scheme. The eight members of the State Board of Elections voted unanimously to put Steve Sandvoss on leave “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a news release from the board. Sandvoss, a Rochester resident and lawyer who has led the state agency since 2015 and worked for the board in various capacities for 33 years, reported being a victim of an online extortion attempt last week, the release said. He informed the Illinois State Police, which has begun an investigation, the release said. Sandvoss, 55, was at the helm of the election board, an independent state agency governed by a board of four Democrats and four Republicans, during an alleged Russian cyber attack on 20 state election systems in June 2016. But Monday’s news release didn’t give any indication whether another attempted Russian hack was involved in the attempted extortion scheme. But the release said that based on Sandvoss’ description, the scheme “appeared typical of many such online scams.” However, because the attempt involved a top official at the agency, the board took the “cautionary step” of placing Sandvoss on paid leave, the news release said. Sandvoss’ salary is $162,000 annually.

Full Article: Illinois State Board of Elections director target in extortion scheme

Illinois: House approves legislation to expand vote-by-mail program after hours of questions from GOP | Jamie Munks/Chicago Tribune

The Illinois House on Thursday passed legislation to significantly expand Illinois’ vote-by-mail program in advance of November’s general election after hours of debate during which Republicans took issue with various facets of the plan. The legislation would direct election authorities to mail or email official vote-by-mail applications for the Nov. 3 general election to any voters who applied for an official ballot in the 2018 general election, the 2019 municipal elections or the March 2020 primary. Voters who submit their application for a mail-in ballot before Oct. 1 would receive their ballot no later than Oct. 6. Sponsoring Rep. Kelly Burke, an Evergreen Park Democrat, said its aim is to “try to make vote-by-mail more user-friendly, efficient, secure and accessible.” The House voted 72-43 in favor Thursday evening. Rep. Brad Stephens of Rosemont was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the measure, which now moves to the Senate.

Illinois: Will Illinois switch to all vote-by-mail in November? It could cost counties millions | Kelsey Landis/Belleville News-Democrat

They don’t have enough money and the clock is winding down, but election officials are preparing for three times as many voters to cast ballots by mail in November. The threat of coronavirus could compel unprecedented numbers of Illinoisans to vote from home rather than risk a trip to the polls on November 6, said St. Clair County Clerk Thomas Holbrook. “Anyone with an ounce of sense knows it makes more sense to vote by mail,” Holbrook said. “But the presidential general election is going to be overwhelming and it’s going to stretch our budget and capacity to the limit.” With already strapped budgets, clerks worry about the price tag: each packet costs at least a dollar to print, not to mention postage and labor to process applications, said Vicky Albers, Clinton County clerk. “That’s over a dollar a piece that you don’t have in your budget,” Albers said. In 2016, St. Clair County saw a 66% voter turnout, and 11,400 people applied to vote by mail. That number could double or triple this year as voters decide to avoid the polls, Holbrook said. Statewide in 2016, just 6.5% of voters cast their ballots by mail, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. That number is almost certain to increase this year.

Illinois: Lawmakers Debate Vote-By-Mail Ballots for 2020 Election Amidst Pandemic | Katie Kim and Lisa Capitanini/NBC Chicago

With less than six months to go until the general election and with concerns over social distancing at polling places, some Illinois leaders are pushing to significantly expand the use of vote-by-mail ballots. State Sen. Julie Morrison, a Democrat from Lake Forest, plans to introduce a bill that would allow the state to mail a ballot to every registered voter in Illinois. Under the provisions of the bill, select polling places would remain open for early voting and on Election Day for those who don’t feel comfortable casting ballots by mail. “I’ve heard of a lot of interest in having a vote by mail program so that people do feel comfortable and safe on Election Day,” said. Sen. Morrison. Current law allows Illinoisans to request a vote-by-mail ballot as early as Aug. 5. Sen. Morrison said her bill would only apply to the 2020 Election as a direct response to the coronavirus pandemic, so voters don’t have to choose between their right to vote and their health and to protect poll workers.

Illinois: County Clerks Prepare For 2020 Election As Pandemic Continues | Claudia Baker/WNIJ and WNIU

Local officials across Illinois are preparing for the 2020 election amid concerns over how the coronavirus may affect the logistics of the election. Several voting locations used during the March 17 primaries have been linked to coronavirus cases. An election judge in Chicago died from complications due to coronavirus a few weeks after the primary. Many election judges across Illinois are over the age of 60, putting them at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19. Many election judges may decide not to work in November which could strain local polling places. One solution suggested by Illinois lawmakers is to expand mail-in voting measures. Joe Tirio, the McHenry county clerk and recorder spoke about the political push for such measures. “There have been efforts to expand vote by mail predating coronavirus. There were two bills in the last legislative session addressing this and there’s an appetite for it on the federal level,” Tirio said.

Illinois: After Chicago poll worker dies from COVID-19 and others test positive, city warns voters they might have been exposed to virus at polling places | John Keilman/Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners is notifying voters who cast their ballots in four locations around the city last month that they shared space with people who later tested positive for COVID-19 — including one poll worker who has died. The poll worker, whom officials identified as city employee Revall Burke, had been at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church at 1460 W. 78th St. during the March 17 primary. Voters, poll workers, building owners and managers, field investigators and cartage companies that might have been present are all being notified by letter. The letter says: “Although the Board took every precaution possible by supplying poll workers with hand sanitizers, gloves, and instructions for wiping down the equipment, the fact remains that an individual who has now tested positive was likely present while you were voting.

Illinois: Blame game ensues in election hobbled by coronavirus, marred by low turnout | Andy Grimm, Maudlyne Ihejirika, Maureen O’Donnell, Mitch Dudek, and Tom McNamee/Chicago Sun-Times

Chicagoans voted in a virtual ghost town Tuesday, prompting a war of words between government officials and a battle of sorts by an 80-year-old woman who — after visits to three polling places — finally was able to cast her ballot. The voter turnout in Chicago, as throughout the suburbs and most of Illinois, was extremely low because nobody wanted to catch the coronavirus. Voters by the thousands had voted early or by mail. Thousands of others took a pass. By mid-afternoon in Chicago, fewer than half the usual number of ballots had been cast. Voters straggled in off half-empty streets — much of the city was self-isolating — into half-empty polling places that nonetheless weren’t always ready for business. Some polling places had been shifted to new locations on short notice, leaving voters feeling lost and confused. Other polling places opened late. Others were undermanned because COVID-19 had scared off judges. At other polling places, last-minute replacement judges were not sufficiently trained, as anybody could see.

Illinois: A primary like no other: Low turnout, poll worker shortage expected amid coronavirus | Rick Pearson, Hal Dardick and Bill Ruthart/Chicago Tribune

Illinoisans readied for a primary Election Day like no other Tuesday, with fear of the spread of coronavirus raising concerns of low turnout and too few poll workers as government leaders exhorted healthy voters to do their part to move democracy forward at the ballot box. With polls open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., the push to get people to vote came despite new federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to avoid crowds of 50 people or more. Chicago election officials stressed safety and encouraged voters to practice social distancing, even offering alternative less-crowded voting sites. But they acknowledged a “tsunami” of calls from poll workers opting not to show up at polling places and took the unusual step of urgently asking healthy people to show up and serve as judges. “We are in an untenable position at this point, and we understand and refuse to punish the judges whose age or health condition might prevent them from going out,” said Marisel Hernandez, chair of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. The board, she said, was “bracing for the most difficult election, under the most trying of times.” But Mayor Lori Lightfoot, speaking to reporters, sought to reassure the voting public, saying an “all-call for volunteers” resulted in “more than sufficient election judges at the ready to staff the polling places.” The result, she said, “has been nothing short of phenomenal.”

Illinois: How Election Day in Illinois is adjusting to the coronavirus: fewer polling places, more hand sanitizer | Patrick M. O’Connell and Sophie Sherry/Chicago Tribune

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday evening the primary election in Illinois will be held as planned despite a wave of other closures and cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “I want to make clear the election will proceed forward on Tuesday,” Pritzker said during a news conference at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago. The governor said in-person voting will continue as scheduled, though some polling places previously slated to be hosted by nursing homes may be relocated for the safety of residents. Officials said early voting has been extended by one hour this weekend to 6 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Pritzker also announced an extension for vote by mail. The deadline for submitting an application online for vote by mail was extended to midnight Thursday, and the governor said voters can apply for a mail ballot in person at their local clerk’s office or any early voting location. Vote-by-mail ballots still need to be returned by Election Day. The governor urged local election officials to extend and expand early voting hours. Concerns about coronavirus have contributed to a surge in vote-by-mail applications and the closure of polling places in the city of Chicago. It also has led to a shortage of poll workers, as hundreds of election judges and poll workers have canceled their assignments. The pandemic also had led election officials to plan extra precautions at polling places throughout northeast Illinois, including deep cleanings and plentiful supplies of hand sanitizer.

Illinois: Secretary of State can’t explain latest voter registration gaffe | Neal Earley/Chicago Sun-Times

In the latest gaffe in the state’s voter rolls, 1,151 Illinois residents were improperly classified as not registered to vote in next week’s primary before officials caught the mistake. State election officials sent out letters Monday to local election authorities, ahead of the March 17 primary, alerting them to the problem and telling them to allow the people mistakenly listed as not registered, to vote. All 1,151 people affected by the problem were attempting to apply for REAL ID, but a spokesman for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said he does not know what caused the error, saying it could have been any one of a number of problems. A spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections said he doesn’t think anyone who was mistakenly listed as not registered was inappropriately turned away during early voting, which began last week, since anyone not registered to vote has the option to do so on the spot and election judges are trained to tell people about that option. “This is our way of making sure that these folks got registered in time for the election,” said Matt Dietrich, board spokesman. Dietrich said the 87 local election authorities impacted by the error should work to make sure those wrongly classified as not registered are allowed to vote.

Illinois: State Board of Elections without IT chief Matt Eammons week before Illinois primary | Chuck Goudie, Barb Markoff and Ross Weidner/WLS

The ABC7 I-Team has learned that Matt Emmons, Illinois State Board of Elections IT director, has departed for a job in private industry. After authorities said the state’s voter registration database was breached by Russian attackers in 2016, resulting in the theft of several hundred thousand records, Emmons helped coordinate security operations before the midterm elections. “The most sophisticated threats we are facing are coming from outside the country,” Emmons told StateTech, an online government technology site, in 2018. “We consider the threat of nation-state actors and their near limitless resources the most threatening issue today. Most federal law enforcement agencies believe the foreign meddling with our election systems is going to continue.” Emmons explained that the first task after the breach was to ensure that there was no permanent hacking stake in the Illinois election system. “In the weeks and months after the attack, we worked with the FBI and DHS to confirm the attack was limited to the exfiltration of data,” Emmons said. Now Emmons is gone a week before the 2020 Illinois primary, having taken a position that is said to be in the insurance industry.

Illinois: Ransomware attack hundreds of LaSalle County government computers | WEEK

The LaSalle County government is seeing a big interruption to its services this week. The LaSalle County government is seeing a big interruption to its services this week. The county is dealing with a ransomware attack on its computers discovered by the Sheriff’s Office last Sunday around 3:30 a.m. Ransomware is a type of virus which locks up all the files on a computer, as hackers demand a ransom, usually money or Bitcoin, to release them. The county’s IT Director, John Haag, said this virus is locking up about 200 computers and about 40 servers in the county government. He said the two areas not affected are the county courts and circuit clerk’s office. About a week later, county employees still do not have access to their emails.

Illinois: Election officials are touting sleek new voting machines for the Illinois primary. With early voting underway, are they more secure than old-fashioned paper ballots? | Elyssa Cherney/Chicago Tribune

When Rudy Altergott dropped by an early voting location in Chicago, he encountered technology he hadn’t seen before: a touch-screen device that allowed him to make his selections for the presidential primary with a tap of the finger. The machine printed a receipt that included a QR code — a type of bar code that contains a digital summary of Altergott’s ballot — and a written list of the candidates he chose, including the races he left blank. After he reviewed the paper slip, he fed it into a scanner to store the results. “I thought it was a little bit more user-friendly,” said Altergott, 29, who lives in the Gold Coast neighborhood. “I felt more comfortable with it, and I felt like it was easier to use and more pragmatic.” As election authorities in Chicago and Cook County unveil the new touch screens ahead of the March 17 primary election, polling locations are becoming more high-tech than ever before. The costly equipment was rolled out to combat the risk of election interference and to make voting more accessible for those who have difficulty filling out a ballot by hand.

Illinois: Calls for audits, paper trails emerge during listening session on Illinois automatic voter registration program | Greg Bishop/The Center Square

A problem with Illinois’ automatic voter registration program that led to hundreds of people who said they weren’t U.S. citizens being registered to vote took center stage at a listening session hosted by a central Illinois congressman in Springfield on Monday. The automatic voter registration law was enacted in Illinois with bipartisan support in 2018 and required certain state agencies such as the Illinois Secretary of State to automatically forward the information of a person anytime they interact with a state agency to the Illinois State Board of Elections and then to local elections authorities for voter registration. Illinois elections are handled on a county level, or in some instances by local election commissions, not by the state, meaning it is decentralized. Voter records are maintained by those local officials. The automatic voter registration system pushes voter information from the state to local officials.

Illinois: ‘Wake-up call’ led to focus on election security | Bernard Schoenburg/The State Journal-Register

As the March 17 Illinois primary approaches, state and local election officials say they are continually working to keep election records, information and vote totals safe from outside meddling. “What I always say is we’re confident that we’re doing everything we can to stay a step ahead of any cyber attacker,” said Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections. “But all you can ever hope, when you’re dealing with cyber security, is to stay ahead of the next hacker.” Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray, whose office oversees elections in the county, said every election authority has been “working hard … protecting and defending our election apparatus. It is absolutely imperative today that we are proactive and being out in front of cybercriminals.”

Illinois: Citizen Group Questions QR Codes for Voting Audits | Mary Schuermann Kuhlman/Public News Service

Early voting for the March 17 primary is now under way for some Illinoisans, but a citizens group contends voters should wait until Election Day to cast a ballot. Chicago Board of Elections’ new Loop Super Site opened on Wednesday, and features new touch screen voting machines and ballot scanners. Dr. Lora Chamberlain is on the board of the group Clean Count Cook County, which maintains the ballot marking devices have significant flaws. “They print a QR code on the ballot and that’s what’s counted,” she explains. “Not the choices written out, but the QR code. “And there’s no smart app, there’s no machine, it’s proprietary. So the voters can never actually know what’s being counted off their ballot.” The machines print a paper record of the voter’s selections, but Chamberlain notes it doesn’t show races the voter might have missed on the ballot.

Illinois: Chicago gets new ‘giant iPad’-style electronic voting machines | Ella Lee/Chicago Sun-Times

New electronic voting machines were rolled out in Chicago this week — just in time for early voting for next month’s primary elections. The machines are touch-screen, like a “giant iPad” and capture an electronic scan of the voter’s ballot before printing, according to Jim Allen, Chicago Board of Election spokesman. “Even if those paper ballots were to be damaged, lost, destroyed or tampered with, you’d not only have the paper, but also the scanned images of all the ballots cast,” Allen said of the technological capabilities of the machines. There will be roughly 4500 new electronic machines in city-based precincts on March 17. Early voters started using the machines Wednesday at the Loop Super Site, at 191 N. Clark St. And when early voting expands to the rest of the precincts, the machines will be available at those locations as well. In addition to hiring cybersecurity expert and working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, the $22 million upgrade is another effort by the election board to improve security since Russian hackers tapped Illinois’ voter registration system in 2016.

Illinois: State officials: Implemented solutions to cyber attacks will improve Illinois’ election security| Mike Kramer/Pekin Daily Times

The well-documented 2016 infiltration of Illinois’ Voter Registration System by Russian hackers demonstrated that election infrastructure in the United States has become a focal point for foreign cyber attacks. According to Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman, Illinois election officials have responded to the intrusions by working to upgrade the state’s cyber defenses. The upgrades are designed to protect voters and their ballots leading up to this year’s general election. ″(Election security) isn’t an issue that’s being discussed endlessly with no solution in sight,” said Ackerman. “There is a solution that has been provided and will be implemented throughout the state of Illinois before the 2020 elections. Here in Tazewell County, the solution went online just last week and I believe neighboring counties are similarly online. Other parts of the state still aren’t, but the goal is they will be before the March primary.”

Illinois: Elections officials disclose fresh problems with voter registration | Sophia Tareen/Associated Press

Illinois elections officials disclosed fresh problems Wednesday with the state’s automatic voter registration program, including at least one eligible voter who said she registered to vote but ended up on an opt-out list. The program is already under fire for mistakenly registering over 500 people who indicated they weren’t U.S. citizens, of which 15 people voted in 2018 and 2019 elections. Election officials said at least eight of the people have long voting histories and were likely U.S. citizens, leaving seven voters in question. The individuals involved were applying for standard drivers’ licenses at secretary of state’s offices. Details were scarce on the new issues, disclosed at a State Board of Elections meeting. Brenda Glahn, an attorney with the secretary of state, said registrations of eligible voters who appeared to decline to be registered were still sent to election officials. The problems stem from those applying for a REAL ID, which requires proof of citizenship.

Illinois: From arrows to ovals and ‘giant iPads,’ voters in Chicago and Cook County will see new voting machines at the polls | Dan Petrella/Chicago Tribune

Voters in Chicago and the rest of Cook County will see brand-new voting machines when they head to the polls for the March 17 primary elections. All Chicago polling places will be equipped with new voting machines for paper ballots and each will have at least one new touch-screen voting machine, Chicago Board of Election spokesman James Allen said Monday. The most noticeable change will be that voters will fill in an oval rather than connecting to sides of an arrow when filling out a paper ballot, Allen said. The new touch-screen voting machines, which will resemble “giant iPads,” will print out a paper ballot, which voters will then feed into a scanner, much like they do with handwritten ballots. The city elections board is spending $21 million on the machines, with nearly $19 million coming from the city. The City Council approved a measure Jan. 15 that moves $18.7 million from city’s streetlight replacement program to pay for the new equipment. The city and the local election authority are paying for the new equipment because “everybody’s grown weary of waiting” for new federal funding for election equipment, Allen said. “Numerous jurisdictions around the state are just turning to their local pocketbooks,” he said. Fifty-five early voting sites across the city open March 2 and will all be equipped with the new touch-screen machines, Allen said.

Illinois: Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to spend nearly $19 million on new Chicago touchscreen voting machines before March primary election | John Byrne/Chicago Tribune

Chicago voters are poised to see updated voting machines that election officials said will provide more security in the March primary election, thanks to nearly $19 million Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to move from the city’s streetlight replacement program to pay for the new equipment. Under the spending plan aldermen advanced Monday, the bond money will be transferred to the Chicago Board of Elections to buy new touchscreen voting machines that will generate a paper ballot that voters will feed into ballot readers when they’re done voting. The city has borrowed money for the “smart streetlight” program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel championed through his public-private Infrastructure Trust as a way to save energy costs and speed the replacement of broken lights.

Illinois: Christian County Official Highlights Election Integrity Problems, Solutions | Mike Smith/NPR

A central-Illinois election official told a Congressional panel Thursday some of the voting machines Illinoisans used in the last election are still susceptible to tampering. But he said efforts are underway to prevent it from happening again. In 2016, Russian military hackers targeted Illinois’ statewide voter database. The State Board of Elections addressed the vulnerability by using more than $13 million in federal money to promote cybersecurity among smaller election authorities. But there are still significant needs among small communities. Election administration is decentralized in Illinois. The 108 separate jurisdictions range in size from the city of Chicago to counties of just a few thousand people. Christian County Clerk Michael Gianasi told members of Congress voting hardware in his jurisdiction is outdated. That county has just over 21,000 registered voters. “Those machines, although doing well up through and including the most recent elections, have seen better days,” Gianasi said. He said he’s leasing new machines, which have yet to be delivered, at a significant cost for his small county — $322,000 over six years. State officials have said replacing outdated equipment across Illinois would cost $175 million.

Illinois: State Elections Board: ‘We’re Under Constant Threat’ from Foreign Interference | Paris Schutz/WTTW

The 2020 election is just under a year away, and both federal and state election authorities say the threat of foreign interference is ramping up. Illinois was one of several states whose election infrastructure was attacked by Russians in 2016, and officials say they’ve made big changes to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But can voters be sure the new measures will work? The Illinois State Board of Elections says it has received $13.2 million in federal aid since 2016 to deal with foreign interference. As outlined in the Mueller report, Russian hackers successfully breached an Illinois voter database that included information such as names, addresses and voter registration status. The breach affected 76,000 Illinois voters, but the board says there is no evidence that hackers manipulated any of that information to try and change voter registration status and, ultimately, impact the outcome of the election. But they say it was a wakeup call.

Illinois: McHenry County officials requesting Board of Elections support during 2020 elections | Drew Zimmerman/Northwest Herald

Over the past few years, McHenry County has been subjected to multiple election errors, including technology failures and incorrect ballots. To ensure these problems don’t crop up in the 2020 primary and general elections – which are shaping up to have record turnouts – McHenry County officials are looking toward the Illinois Board of Elections for assistance to ensure a smooth and accurate process. On Monday, McHenry County Board member Michael Vijuk sent a letter to IBOE Executive Director Steve Sandvoss requesting any support and resources the agency could bring to ensure the entire voting process is secure. “My plea is not one based on a hasty reaction to a comment or two, but to the problems that I have observed as an election judge, McHenry County Board member and citizen of the county,” Vijuk wrote. “The McHenry County Clerk’s Office has had [sobering] problems that may have directly and indirectly deprived the rights of voters in the 2016 election, the 2018 election, and the 2019 consolidated election. My faith has been shaken in the office’s ability to prevail over these deficiencies without your office’s assistance.”

Illinois: ‘Iranian Hackers’ Claim Hack on Macon County Website | Kennedy Nolan/Decatur Herald & Review

Macon County, Ill., is the latest government entity to be targeted by hackers who hijacked a web page and disabled access. The Circuit Clerk’s Office main web page on Sunday night was overtaken by an image of a Guy Fawkes mask, Iranian flag and the text: “Hacked by Iranian Hackers. Hacked by Mamad Warning. We are always closer to you. Your identity is known to us. Your information is for us 😉 take care.” Circuit Clerk Lois Durbin said the county Information Technology department restored the page by 10 a.m. Monday. The office handles all records of traffic, civil and criminal cases in the county, but Durbin said personal identification information is stored on a separate system and wasn’t in danger of being accessed. “The firewall went up, and everything was protected and nothing was compromised,” she said. The county joins a growing list of government entities that are the victims of hacking attempts. Another technique involves disabling a website with malware and demanding money to restore it.