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'Embarrassing' Voter Data Leak Will Never Happen Again, Election Chief Says

By Heather Cherone | October 24, 2017 4:38pm
 A resident casts a vote at a 49th Ward polling place Tuesday.
A resident casts a vote at a 49th Ward polling place Tuesday.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

CITY HALL — The head of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Tuesday apologized to aldermen for allowing the personal information of 1.8 million Chicago registered voters to be exposed on a public server.

Executive Director Lance Gough said the Aug. 12 discovery that Election Systems & Software discovered backup files stored on a Amazon Web Services server that included voter names, addresses, and dates of birth. In many cases it also included the voters’ driver’s license and state identification numbers and the last four digits of Social Security numbers.

"It was quite embarrassing," Gough said. "I'm here to apologize. This will never happen again."

Officials searched for the information on the Dark Web — where criminals can purchase information to be used to steal identities — and found that although the data had been exposed, there was no evidence that it had been downloaded or "compromised," Gough said.

RELATED: Chicago Voters To Get A Year Of Identity Protection After Data Leak

The Board of Election Commissioners' 2018 budget went up 34.2 percent this year to $15.6 million. That increase will pay for initiatives like new equipment, universal vote centers and automatic voter registration, according to the city's 2018 budget.

The voting equipment now in use is 13 years old, Gough said.

"We are holding it together, barely," Gough said, adding that replacement parts are no longer available and broken machines are being repaired with parts from other machines.

Those universal vote centers would allow anyone to vote at any location regardless of their home address, Gough said. There would be hundreds of such locations, in an effort to boost turnout and reduce costs, he added.

While 2017 was not an election year, 2018 will feature several contests, Gough said.