Clara Andriola, the Washoe County Board of Commissioners’ swing vote in each case, cast a decisive vote to approve one item and reject another.
The discussion centered on the desire to find local printers who can do the work — contracts totaling more than $2 million.
Angie Fischer from the Reno, Nevada-based family-owned printer International Minute Press told us that this was a significant amount of money being sent out of state.
“I think all efforts should be made by our leadership to reach out to us local people that are working hard to put food on the table,” she said during public comment.
She requested that the decision on the project to create sample ballots be deferred so that local printers can submit their proposals.
Sample-ballot Contract Voted Down 3-2
Jamie Rodriguez, Registrar Voters, warned that delays would cause problems because print vendors have deadlines.
Rodriguez said that the sample ballot-page count is due to be completed by the end of the second week in September.
Mike Clark reacted with opposition to this argument.
“Bringing this stuff to us when we have no other option, no other way out, I feel boxed in,” he said. “I’m not going to vote for it because of that.”
Clark did not convince Mariluz Garcia, the Commissioner.
She said the item before the commission was not about how best to prioritize local printers but was about following the county’s request-for-proposal process for awarding contracts.
This process involves advertising the project months in advance to potential vendors, having a panel of three people who review contracts score the top submissions and then advising on the best.
“It was listed on April 25,” Garcia said of the sample-ballot project. “It was evaluated by the panel on May 23. The panel scored it. We’ve found the lowest-priced bidder. We’re here to approve or not approve.”
Eric Brown, the County Manager, also made a strong plea to approve the vendor recommended for sample ballots.
He said that outreach to local printers — as requested by commissioners after the 2020 and 2022 elections — were unsuccessful.
“We kept coming up with situations where they either didn’t have the equipment or the capability,” Brown said.
He suggested that the commissioners approve ProVote Solutions’ $1.3-million contract and work simultaneously to establish relationships with local printing companies for future election.
“This is not something we want to mess with right now,” Brown said.
“We don’t have a lot of time here to keep issuing RFPs so that would be my sincere recommendation to you: Let’s go with this vendor.”
Andriola requested a week to reach out to two local printers that could possibly take the contract.
“Both of them have done this in the past,” she said, not giving names for the local printers. “I’m not suggesting they can do that now. I’m wondering if we were to table this just for the following meeting, it would give you (Rodriguez) time —or whoever is the appropriate staff — to call.”
Vice-Chair Jeanne Herman was willing to gamble on the ability of local printers to get the job completed.
Herman said, “We’ll make it happen.” “We can do it. We would all look much better.
The commission voted against the contract 3-2. The commissioners Andriola and Clark voted against the contract, while Garcia and Alexis Hill as chair voted for it.
Real-ballot contracts approved by 3-2
Andriola’s vote went the other way on the actual ballot proposal.
The vendor Runbeck received a $815,000 contract to print mail ballots in 2024 for both the primaries as well as the general election.
She argued that, even if bids were reopened, no Washoe County printing companies could win the contract as none are certified to print ballots.
A vendor based in Minnesota with a Las Vegas office — the closest to a Nevada-based vendor among those who submitted proposals — was in the running but did not prevail against Runbeck in scoring by the contract panel.
Runbeck was criticized by some public commentators because it printed ballots in Arizona for 2022. Arizona has had known ballot printing issues, but they were not caused by preprinted ballots. Instead, the ballots were printed at polling places and this was what caused some voter delays.
Another option would have been to join the State of Nevada in picking a print vendor, but Rodriguez said the timing didn’t work.
“To be part of that state contract, we would have had to have opted in by Aug. 1,” she said.
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Details about the state of the process were not available in time.
“Without those key components, we didn’t feel it was appropriate to bring forward (to the commission) without being able to answer any sort of questions,” Rodriguez said.
Mark Robison writes about local government issues for the Reno Gazette-Journal. His journalism is free and done for the public’s good. If you’d like to see more stories like this one, please consider donating at RGJ.com/donate.
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