How Phoenix’s Runbeck Election Companies offers with threats
Runbeck Election Companies CEO, Jeff Ellington, talks poll safety and the escalation of threats in Arizona.
A Phoenix-based firm that prints voting supplies for counties throughout the nation is battening down the hatches forward of this yr’s pivotal election cycle.
Runbeck Election Companies already had fisheye cameras, an access-controlled facility, sturdy cybersecurity measures, GPS-tracked vehicles and a “no telephone” coverage for workers in 2020.
It’s now including to its safety record within the wake of two elections that noticed false allegations of fraud and subsequent threats in opposition to election employees.
“You had the priority round elections,” mentioned firm President and Chief Govt Officer Jeff Ellington. “I needed to guarantee that our staff felt protected and that our counties that we contract with knew that what was happening right here was protected and safe.”
Ellington mentioned the poll printing facility added armed officers when election conspiracies first took root after Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the latest presidential election. He and a few of his staff have obtained threats associated to election misinformation.
“It is not OK,” he mentioned. “One of the vital vital jobs on this nation is our proper to vote and performing elections.”
Since then, his firm has made different tweaks. It just lately accomplished an growth of its facility and added extra cameras to the area, Ellington mentioned. It’s making ready to create a delegated space for election observers with a dwell video feed.
“Two folks out right here is manageable,” Ellington mentioned from the warehouse ground of the ability. “However should you begin to get too many, with fork vehicles and pallet jacks, any individual may get run over. So we’re simply going to attempt to hold folks in a room the place they will watch all the pieces. In the event that they wish to come out and see one thing, there might be a course of to convey them out right here.”
Ellington mentioned the corporate additionally revised its poll custody types to extend readability across the chain of custody for the upcoming yr and now has a proper coverage stating its staff could not submit their very own early ballots at work.
These updates come after former Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake challenged the outcomes of her race, which she misplaced by about 17,000 votes.
Her lawsuit in opposition to election officers alleged deficiencies in chain of custody types documenting some early poll transfers between Maricopa County and Runbeck. Lake, who’s now working for U.S. Senate, additionally mentioned Runbeck staff have been allowed to drop off their and their households’ early ballots on the firm’s facility.
Lake’s swimsuit has been repeatedly dismissed by Arizona courts. Nonetheless, the Grand Canyon State is predicted to stay politically heated and a hotbed of election denialism heading right into a yr with quite a few high-profile races.
How a poll will get made
Election officers cannot simply get ballots — or envelopes, voter playing cards and different printed election supplies — from any workplace provide retailer.
As a substitute, varied counties throughout about two dozen states flip to Runbeck Election Companies.
This is how your poll will get made.
Step 1: What to print. When county election officers order ballots, they inform Runbeck precisely what number of to print and what races ought to be on every poll. In addition they put together translations for voters who’ve requested ballots in a language aside from English.
Step 2: Getting the fitting poll in the fitting envelope. Each poll is marked with a barcode that, when scanned, tells employees its structure and content material. The envelope of each early poll is marked with a barcode distinctive to every voter. That helps employees guarantee the proper early ballots are headed to the fitting voters with out having the ability to hint how they voted later.
Step 3: Delivery ballots. As soon as the in-person ballots are packaged and able to go, they’re shipped to election officers. Early ballots headed to Arizona voters are transported to a mail facility in Phoenix to get shipped out.
Early ballots going out-of-state can both undergo the Phoenix postal facility or get trucked to submit workplaces nearer to their ultimate vacation spot.
What occurs when the early ballots come again?
As soon as an early voter fills out their poll and mails it again, there is a course of to confirm the voter’s signature. Runbeck performs a task there, too.
Runbeck offers software program and machines for counties to scan the skin of early poll envelopes and seize a picture of every voter’s signed affidavit. These photos go right into a safe, automated system for elections staffers to overview, whereas the ballots are safely saved.
For many counties, that course of occurs at their election services, the place they’re assisted by Runbeck staffers. Maricopa County is an exception due to its proximity to the corporate. A bipartisan workforce from the county delivers accomplished early ballots of their sealed envelopes to Runbeck’s warehouse to be scanned.
Whereas at Runbeck, the ballots of their sealed envelopes are saved in a safe vault that solely sure staff can entry.
As soon as scanned, the still-unopened early poll envelopes get transported to the Maricopa County Elections Division, the place they’re saved in one other vault. After elections staffers confirm signatures, every poll is separated from its envelope by a bipartisan workforce. At that time, the poll turns into nameless and it goes to the tabulation room to be counted.
Runbeck has no involvement within the tallying course of.
Facility joins others in ramping up safety in 2024
The corporate is not alone in including new safety features.
In Coconino County, native officers just lately unveiled a brand new 9,000-square-foot facility to accommodate election operations. It is a marked enchancment from the earlier setup, the place employees members have been unfold throughout a number of workplaces.
The brand new constructing comes with a number of safety cameras and tabulation rooms which might be solely accessible by key card, with restrictions on who can enter.
In the meantime, Pinal County remains to be constructing its brand-new facility in Florence. The constructing will embody a public commentary room that may give an nearly 360-degree view of all working areas. A public toilet will guarantee guests will not should be escorted via safe areas.
It additionally will characteristic an enclosed car parking zone and locked rooms for poll storage on election night time.
Sasha Hupka covers county authorities and election administration for The Arizona Republic. Do you have got a tip to share on elections or voting? Attain her at [email protected]. Observe her on X, previously Twitter: @SashaHupka. Observe her on Instagram or Threads: @sashahupkasnaps.