CHICAGO (CBS) — Fiasco is the best description for what happened during the Iowa Caucuses.
The complications at those “admittedly confusing for outsiders” Iowa caucuses were twofold. A coding error made it difficult for many caucus chairs at the last minute to download a mobile app to report their results, and then the backup phone hotline was overloaded with their calls.
“You hand them a new app, you don’t test it,” said Jim Allen with the Chicago Board of Elections.
Local election officials say Illinois has a system in place to avoid those kinds of mishaps.
“There is no third party app,” said Matt Dietrch with the Illinois State Board of Elections. “There is no mobile phone transmission.”
The cyber security measures guarding the Illinois vote are a result of the 2016 hack into the personal information of 76,000 voters.
“We were the one election authority in the United States that actually got hacked by Russia,” said Dietrch.
Since then a $13.2 million federal grant has helped Illinois beef up its electronic protections. The Illinois State Board of Elections has hired four cyber security agents who search for possible vulnerabilities in each county’s election system.
Only six pretested voting systems are approved for state use. Vote tallies can only be reported through a private network, and no matter how you cast your vote, paper backups are mandatory.
“We work closely now with Homeland Security and the FBI, something I never thought would be necessary,” said Allen.
The Chicago Board of Elections has also hired a cyber security expert. It has invested $21 million in new voting machines we’ll see this year that will scan paper ballots marked in pen, detecting errors like an over-vote, or missing initials.
Elections judges were being trained Saturday, but the entire system went through a mock election test last December to identify and rectify any potential glitches.
“A caucus is nothing like an election,” Allen said. “You don’t have paper ballots and a paper trail that you can recount. You can’t recount a discussion in a school gymnasium.”
Election officials seem less concerned with ballot hacking and more concerned with misinformation circulating purposely on social media impacting the vote, such as false information on how late polls are open.
Election officials are encouraging voters to be skeptical and verify information on the state government websites.
Primary day in Illinois is March 17.