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State Elections Agency Seeking Proposals for New Printing Vendor

Maryland’s top elections administrator previously blamed a vendor for late ballot deliveries during the state’s recent primary. Now, the State Board of Elections may find a new printing vendor for the November election.

The State Board of Elections put out a request on Wednesday for proposals for automated ballot printing and mailing services for the 2020 general election. The request comes after top elections administrator Linda H. Lamone blamed a ballot printing vendor, SeaChange, for a slew of errors in the state’s June 2 primary.

Many voters, particularly those in Baltimore City, received late or incorrect ballots in Maryland’s first largely mail-in election. Lamone told lawmakers last month that the Minneapolis-based SeaChange was to blame for those errors, and claimed the vendor lied about when ballots would be delivered.

SeaChange, on the other hand, has blamed election officials for the delayed ballot deliveries. The company’s president previously told The Baltimore Sun that state officials delivered some voter files days after an April 21 deadline.

At a Wednesday evening Baltimore City Council Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee, State Board of Elections Vice Chairman Patrick J. Hogan seemed to agree with Lamone’s previous statements about the vendor.

“We could not have predicted, nor is it acceptable, to have printing and mailing contractor errors and breach of contract that occurred,” Hogan told City Council members, adding that he wasn’t able to comment further on pending legal matters.

Baltimore City in particular was hit with glitches in the June 2 mail-in primary, with many voters receiving late or incorrect ballots. Deputy Elections Administrator Nikki Charlson told City Council members that around 23,000 ballots in the city were marked as undeliverable by the United States Postal Service.

The request for proposals was released on the heels of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s decision to hold a more traditional election in November, and mail every voter in Maryland an absentee ballot request. The State Board of Elections noted in its request for proposals that it might award a contract to a single vendor or to multiple vendors, based on the proposal.

State election officials want a contract in place by Aug. 17 so that the vendor can prepare for the massive task of mailing ballot applications to millions of registered voters in Maryland. Officials want the vendor to have at least three years of experience with automated ballot printing and mailing, or five years of experience with other large mailing projects.

Officials also seem to be taking steps to track when ballots are delivered to voters. The request for proposals requires potential vendors to submit a “web-based system that election officials can use to track ballots en route to voters, including postal tracking codes that can be used for USPS confirmation.”

The deadline for vendor submissions is July 31. After that, election officials will look to do a thorough and speedy review of submissions, Charlson told Baltimore City Council members.

“The plan is to move very quickly,” she said.

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State Elections Agency Seeking Proposals for New Printing Vendor