CS department Assistant Professor V.N. Venkatakrishnan is serving on a panel that is assisting the Cook County Election board with technology and procedural issues in the conduct of elections. The electoral board of Cook county has the largest electorate amongst all the counties in Illinois state, and serves the greater Chicago region.
On November 7, 2006, voters in Cook county cast ballots in several hotly contested races in Illinois. There were several problems in the processing of election results that 90% of the tabulation was only completed by about 10:44 a.m. Wednesday, November 8, creating an overnight delay.
Cook County Clerk David Orr organized a technical review team of independent experts that investigated the reasons for the delays. Along with UIC CS department professor Venkatakrishnan (http://www.cs.uic.edu/~venkat
), the panel consisted of faculty members from two other Chicago area schools (Depaul, IIT), two members from the industry, and was chaired by the Hon. Abner J. Mikva, who served as White House Counsel from 1994 until 1995.
The panel investigated the reasons for the election delays through a systematic study of the technology used and an analysis of the processes employed during the elections. It subsequently released its report with findings and recommendations to the general public in the second week of January 2007. The main finding of the panel was that technological failures related to electronic voting equipment in multiple areas constituted the main reason for the election delays.
The panel made both long term and short term recommendations for mitigating the risks associated with the problems in technology. The panel is continuing to assist the Cook County Clerk's office in the effort to ensure that these recommendations are met for future elections.
On election day (Feb 27), Prof. Venkat was present as an election observer in the central tallying facility in Chicago downtown observing the election tabulation processes. This election, though a smaller one, implemented some of the recommendations made by the panel. It had smoother results, with 90% of the tabulation completed by 8.30 p.m on the same day.
Cook County Election board (11/17/06): Technical review panel set:
Chicago Tribune (1/9/07): Report on panel
Chicago Tribune: (2/28/07) Smooth sailing in polls this time