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Maryland Mail-In Ballot Vender Quits, But State Remains On Schedule To Print Enough Ballots


 SeaChange, the mail-in ballot company that the state Board of Elections blamed for proofing errors in Baltimore’s June primary election, has walked away from its contract with Maryland less than two months before the November general election. 

The Minneapolis-based company informed the state board last week that it would not go through with the work needed to produce Maryland ballots; printing was scheduled to begin Sept. 3. Elections officials say the state has contracted with multiple vendors to print ballots and still on track to have all of its mail-in ballots printed by the end of this month.

Taylor Corp., another Minnesota-based printing company, will now print up to 4 million ballots originally assigned to SeaChange. The company already had a contract with the elections board. 

“We did initially divide the contract between [SeaChange] and Taylor because of capacity concerns from [SeaChange,]” Deputy Elections Administrator Nikki Charlson said during a board meeting Friday. “But they notified us this week that they declined to produce the packets and Taylor was able to absorb the additional quantities.”

The board is “confident [Taylor Corp.] will meet the needs of Marylanders who choose to vote by mail,” Elections Administrator Linda Lamone said. 

The elections board also has contracted with Runbeck Election Services, Inc. of Arizona to print about 4 million ballot applications and postage-paid return envelopes and Single Point Sourcing of Pennsylvania to print more than 15 million in-person voting ballots. 

Lamone said the board vetted Taylor Corp. by soliciting reviews of the company from election officials throughout the country and by requiring the company to provide multiple rounds of test ballots for review.

Lamone and other officials blamed SeaChange for multiple problems with the state’s June primary, which was the first time Maryland held an election primarily through the mail. 

Baltimore City and Montgomery County ballots arrived in voters’ mailboxes less than two weeks before the primary, after the company issued them late. State officials said SeaChange lied to them about when they sent the ballots; the company blamed the board for providing them with a list of voters behind schedule.  

Many Prince George’s County voters received ballots with mail-in instructions only in Spanish; SeaChange accepted responsibility for the error and sent voters the instructions in English.    

A formatting error in ballots in Baltimore’s 1st District Democratic City Council primary meant results were misread by ballot scanners; ballots had to be recopied by hand, a tedious undertaking that took a few days and ultimately slowed the process of certifying the rest of the city’s races.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.
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