[Image courtesy of mnartists.org]
Back in March, I highlighted the story of several Illinois counties who discovered, on Election Day, that their optical scan ballots had been printed too wide to fit into scanners. The embarrassment involved in the mistake led many of the counties to scrutinize their election contracts and put vendors on notice of potential changes.
One of those localities, DuPage County in Chicago's suburbs, announced recently that it was sticking with its ballot printer for November 2012. It wasn't a vote of confidence, however; rather, it was a recognition that a combination of procurement rules and the election calendar simply made it impossible to switch. According to the Daily Herald:
[County] commissioners were hoping to start by seeking price quotes for printing the ballots for November.
But county officials informed them the bidding process would take about 75 days. That could have prevented the commission from getting early ballots to members of the armed forces on time.
So the election board decided to delay changing ballot vendors.
"It was too critical to try to chance it," Ludwig said. "We can't jeopardize the integrity of the upcoming election."
While Liberty Systems will provide the November ballots, Terrill said any part of the printing contract that's not time sensitive will "go to bid in an expedited fashion."
Even though the contract doesn't expire until April 2013, the commission can terminate the deal as long as it provides 30 days notices, officials said.
"We will be giving them notice after the ballots are printed for this election that we are going out to bid for the April 2013 election," Terrill said.
I talk a lot (here and elsewhere) about the need for election offices to be aware of new skills, but the DuPage story is a good reminder that "old skills" like procurement and contract management - the stuff that puts the "administration" in election administration - are going to be vital as well.
It's too bad that DuPage and other counties had to suffer the embarrassment of faulty ballots to refocus them on the importance of these processes, but whatever the reason it's good to see the county (like so many others) taking full control of their election process and holding vendors accountable for full performance before, during and after Election Day.