Illinois’ ongoing budget problem has left the State Board of Elections in a financial hole so deep that agency officials claim they can’t afford the new computers they need to handle the number of candidates filing petitions to run in next year’s elections.
Ken Menzel, general counsel for the board, told the Sangamon Sun that there are approximately 4,000 active campaign committees for 2018 and without at least $25,000 to replace obsolete equipment the voting lines will be exceedingly long next November.
Even if Senate Bill 6 — which would provide the board with $20.4 million in funding — were to become law, agency officials argue they would still need additional money to incorporate automatic voter registration legislation and update hardware and software as needed.
Election officials are also warning that the agency could be left vulnerable to hacking and might even be forced to “unplug from the internet” unless it can pay the $9,000 for antivirus protection that is already way past due.
“The state is two years into operating without a budget,” Menzel said. “In that time, the only money we’ve received has been the stopgap money we got in fiscal year 2017. It’s left us limping along, and without a budget there’s no money to move around to cover even small things.”
Menzel said it’s hard to estimate how old the computer system is because the agency has “so many servers doing different things.” Just last year, foreign hackers were able to penetrate the system and swipe personal information from voters.
Menzel suggested the idea of having people come into an office and file on a computer as opposed to online was far-fetched.
“We have terminals in both offices to do that kind of filing, but it would be a large inconvenience for people not in Illinois or Springfield,” he said. “Without internet service, we would be toast.”
The $20.4 million appropriation is part of a $37.3 billion budget recently passed by Senate Democrats that also includes a $5.4 billion tax increase for fiscal 2018.
The state is only expected to generate roughly $32 billion in revenues during the fiscal year that ends in late June, and the proposed tax increases are saidt to be aimed at alleviating deficit spending.