Former Mail-In Ballot Vendor Won’t Print Packets For November Election

Photo by Angela Breck

Maryland will have a new printing vendor for the November election after the state’s already-embattled printer called it quits, election officials announced during a Friday afternoon meeting.

SeaChange, a Minnesota-based printing company that handled the state’s largely vote-by-mail primary, has a contract with the State Board of Elections through the end of the year ― but told state officials this week that it wouldn’t print ballots for the Nov. 3 election.

The company didn’t like the state’s multi-vendor approach to the upcoming election, in which the Taylor Corporation, another printing vendor based in Minnesota, would have shared the mail-in ballot printing work.

Officials said they told SeaChange late last month that they would be seeking another vendor to help with mail-in ballots, according to a statement from the State Board of Elections. SeaChange only recently told election officials it wouldn’t be going through with the upcoming election.

“A second vendor was necessary since SeaChange’s stated capacity was less than the expected quantity of ballot packets needed,” the statement reads. “Nearly two weeks after being notified of the second mail-in ballot vendor, SeaChange notified the Board the company was not comfortable with a shared vendor arrangement and declined to produce the requested mail-in ballots.”

The state’s roughly $12 million contract with SeaChange was set to expire at the end of the year. The vendor printed roughly four million mail-in ballots during the state’s June 2 primary, but election officials subsequently blamed the company for errors in the election, including late mail delivery and incorrect ballots. SeaChange, in turn, blamed state officials for the errors.

SeaChange President Wendi Breuer said the company didn’t have a contract for the November election, and that work is based on purchase orders from the State Board of Elections. She said SeaChange didn’t receive election officials’ request to print mail-in ballots until Sept. 4.

“We reviewed the BOE’s request and, based on the primary election, SeaChange was asked to produce what we estimate will be about 20% of the vote-by-mail (VBM) ballot packets for the general election,” Breuer said in a statement. “Given that the total number of VBM ballot packets is trending significantly lower than the primary election, we believe it’s in the best interest of Maryland’s voters and the BOE to consolidate the printing under one vendor. This ensures a single point of contact and clear lines of accountability.”

The new vendor, Minnesota-based Taylor Corporation, will handle the printing and delivery of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election. Another vendor, Single Point Sourcing, will print the more than 15 million in-person voting ballots. State officials have also contracted with Runbeck Election Services, Inc. to print and send about 4 million ballot applications and pre-paid return envelopes.

“The actual truckloads of in-person ballots are expected to be delivered on Sept. 25,” Assistant Deputy Administrator of Election Policy Donna J. Duncan said. “It is truly truckloads, tractor-trailer truckloads that pull up to these local election boards.”

Deputy Election Administrator Nikki Charlson told members of the State Board of Elections during their Friday meeting that the Taylor Corporation is capable of producing the four million mail-in ballots the state board is asking for at a cheaper price than SeaChange.

“Generally, it will be cheaper per-packet from Taylor than it was from our prior vendor,” Charlson said.

Charlson said election officials were impressed by the Taylor Corporation’s track record. The company has previously printed ballots for Clark County, Nevada, where Las Vegas is located. She said local election officials gave the company glowing reviews.

Postal Service trouble

State Election Administrator Linda Lamone warned board members that the United States Postal Service is mailing out a postcard about requesting mail-in ballots to voters across the country, but warned the card is generic and, in some cases, inaccurate.

Lamone said the card has broad language that doesn’t necessarily apply to Maryland’s election process, and added that she reached out to the Postal Service to ask them to not send the card in Maryland.

“I’m trying to stop the mailing of this postcard to Maryland residents, because it’s only going to cause mass confusion,” Lamone said.

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