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DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek Receives 2023 Innovator Award

July 11, 2023

DuPage County Clerk’s Office Reduces Voter Disenfranchisement of Mail Ballots

WHEATON, IL –DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek recently received the 2023 Innovator Award for Elections by the International Association of Government Officials (IGO). The Innovator Award is presented to individuals in the Elections, Recorders, Clerks and Treasurers division in honor of their unique achievements and best practices in their respective fields.

DuPage’s entry was the creation of a mail voting signature comparison procedure allowing teams of election judges to view multiple voter signatures on file instead of just one. After completing three years and six elections, there has been a notable decrease in signature challenges for mail ballots. For instance, the 2020 Primary Election saw a challenge percentage of 2.628% while the 2022 Primary saw a challenge percentage of 0.582% -- a decrease of just over 77%.

Kaczmarek said, “Correcting challenged ballots is a time-consuming and costly process for election staff. However, our top concern is the voters themselves. Once a ballot has been mailed, no one wants to go through additional steps to fix it. Ballot signatures which are not resolved in time remain uncounted. I’m proud that DuPage County is once again leading the way to reduce voter disenfranchisement.”

In 2022, DuPage County became the first and only county in Illinois to implement “Vote Anywhere,” allowing voters to cast their ballots at any polling place on Election Day.

Election managers Stephanie Groenewold, mail voting, and Jessica Stachniak, voter registration, developed this signature comparison project at the DuPage County Clerk’s office when mail ballots increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. That year, CARES Act funding allowed the Clerk’s office to purchase special equipment making this project possible, including a mail sorter which took more clear pictures of voter signatures for historic reference, as well as large monitors for teams of election judges to view multiple signatures.

“This is another example of why funding elections well makes a difference,” Kaczmarek added.

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