The “spotty record” of the Dinuba ballot company that the Fresno County Registrar of Voters has relied on to print ballots prompted supervisors to throw out a contract extension on Tuesday.
Thus, as Fresno County Clerk/Registrar of Voters James Kus prepares to send out the first March 2024 mailers at the end of October, county staff will have to scramble to get a contract with another vendor approved.
“While I expect that (the second printer) can meet the demands of my office, we are now currently conducting an election and are actively in the beginning processes for the March 2024 election,” Kus said. “That may be an unfair ask of any vendor for us to go and begin contract negotiations now. Transferring all the information now will be kind of a challenge.”
Fresno County will begin sending party affiliation confirmations to voters at month’s end. Additionally, Kus’ office has been sending out registration reminders that will have to immediately stop.
Because some election information is legally required to be sent out, a purchase order authorized by Kus could supersede the supervisor’s decision and provide a stop-game solution to the time crunch.
Integrated Voting Systems Has History of Faulty Ballots
Integrated Voting Systems gave the lowest bid to provide ballot printing services for Fresno County. But, at Tuesday’s board meeting, several members of the public questioned the company’s finances and ballot quality.
Since 2016, Integrated Voting Solutions has been barred from business in California after it declared bankruptcy. That same year, Integrated Voting Systems registered with the California Secretary of State. Reports from the company show the same address and last names of executives.
Two years later in 2018, Integrated Voting Systems printed the wrong ballots in Colorado’s Montrose County, according to The Daily Sentinel.
In 2020, ballots produced by the company in Utah’s Sanpete County did not have the critical signature line, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“I urge the board to look further into this one until we can do some greater research,” said Fresno County resident Sean Burdine during Tuesday’s meeting. Burdine often appears at the board meetings to address local issues.
Kus defended the company, saying it is fully authorized to operate in California and, over the past five years, has quickly responded to the county’s needs. Kus said it was not the Dinuba office that produced the misprints in other states.
After hearing comments from the public, Supervisor Brian Pacheco said the company’s “spotty record” was enough for him to look at another vendor, regardless of the timing.
‘Guilty by Association’: Pacheco
“Sometimes you’re guilty by association,” Pacheco said. “If you’re part of the whole, you have to kind of live or die by the whole.”
Supervisors voted twice on a contract with IVS after supervisor Buddy Mendes motioned to revisit the item and create a one-year contract.
Ultimately, supervisors Steve Brandau, Pacheco, and board chair Sal Quintero voted against both motions. Mendes and Magsig voted for the one-year contract.
Brandau said his objection was “much more philosophical” than other supervisors’ reasons for voting against IVS.
“We’ve got a major problem in our nation that has to do with the mistrust of these issues,” Brandau said. “And then something happens today on a very local level on one contract and it kind of comes out that something’s broken with our system.”
Elections Code Empowers Kus to Do What’s Needed
Supervisors asked Kus to return to the next meeting with a contract with another vendor. A total of three vendors sent in bids for the contract.
Normally, supervisors have to approve spending. But, under state and federal election codes, Kus has the authority to “pay-as-you-go,” said Fresno County Counsel Daniel Cederborg.
“I’ve never asked County Counsel for an opinion on this, but there are some election codes that say specifically I am empowered to do what is necessary to deliver ballots to the voters of this county, irrespective of your vote, but through county-based purchasing procedures,” Kus said.