News for Public Officials and the People They Serve
The Unending Cost of Voting Machines

Voting machine vendor charges millions for electronic voting machines and then many times market value for printed ballots the machines could read.

with reported June 26th that the company that produced Boulder County’s $3.1 million voting system will also print ballots for this year’s primary and general election, and it did not have to compete in a bid process for the contract.

The county will pay Hart InterCivic $16,685 to print about 50,000 ballots for the Aug. 8 primary election and a still-undetermined fee for producing more than 200,000 ballots for the Nov. 7 general election, Commissioners Tom Mayer and Will Toor ruled Tuesday.

Mayer said he wished election employees had opened the contract to other bidders who might offer a lower price, but acknowledged that County Clerk Linda Salas and her employees are busy preparing for the upcoming election.

Are there less expensive options?

It's difficult to know what the ballots might have cost Boulder County if  Hart InterCivic had been asked to compete but thirty three cents per page seems very high. It's interesting to compare Hart's cost per ballot with some of the digital offset printers available to individuals and businesses. VistaPrint for example provides High-quality, full-color, 2-sided campaign brochures on glossy stock for  less than eight cents each. iPrint offers 5000 full color tri-fold brochures for just $639.00.

Boulder County could have had the fanciest ballots in the country for a fourth of what the electronic voter machine company will be charging for simple one-color ballots.

In November 2004, the $1.4 million optical scanning machines rejected thousands of ballots, forcing workers to tally votes by hand for 68 hours after the polls closed. Hart blamed the rejections on printing errors. The following year, Hart won the contract to print Boulder County’s ballots for the 2005 election despite another company submitting a lower bid to print about 190,000 ballots.

Elections coordinator Josh Liss said the clerk’s office spent the first part of this year brokering a $1.7 million lease for handicap-accessible voting machines from Hart and was too busy to open the printing to bids.

Salas defended the decision to select Hart and forgo competitive bidding.

“Hart has knowledge and expertise printing the ballots for their system,” she told the commissioners.


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