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Elections official sticks up for vendor that sent out faulty ballots

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Mendocino County YouTube channel.
Mendocino County Assessor Clerk Recorder Registrar of Voters Katrina Bartolomie addresses the Board of Supervisors on February 14.

The vendor the county uses for ballot compilation, printing and mailing services has misprinted ballots in numerous elections in Colorado and Utah. Last week, all 53,000 voters in Mendocino County received Republican ballots for the first supervisorial district.

Yesterday, Assessor Clerk Recorder Registrar of Voters Katrina Bartolomie told this reporter she would never speak to me again if I asked the Board of Supervisors to terminate Mendocino county’s contract with the company.

Though her office learned the error was county-wide on the afternoon of Wednesday February 7, there was no communication with the public at large until 4:30 the following afternoon. Another document addressing more questions was not available to the general public until 7:30 on Friday night.

During public comment prior to a closed session meeting of the Board of Supervisors yesterday, Bartolomie recapped the discovery.

Bartolomie reported that 400 people have already voted using ballots that were misprinted. She assured supervisors that those voters will have a chance to vote using a corrected ballot that was sent out earlier this week.

The contractor the county uses for its elections is called Integrated Voting Systems. The third-party vendor is still unnamed. In 2018, after Integrated Voting Systems sent the wrong ballots to voters in Montrose County, Colorado, forcing a manual recount, The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Colorado investigated the company. The paper found that at that time, Integrated Voting Systems shared employees, addresses and clientele with another company called Integrated Voting Solutions, which had declared bankruptcy. According to the Sentinel, the owners, Eric and Ronda Kozlowski, had over $15 million in debt, including taxes and lawsuit settlements. Their teenaged daughter founded Integrated Voting Systems, which does business in several states.

In 2020, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, Integrated Voting Systems sent out 13,000 ballots with missing signature lines to voters in Sanpete County, Utah. That article also reported a similar error in a municipal election in Sevier County. Last year, the Pikes Peak Courier reported that Integrated Voting Systems sent out 14,812 incorrect ballots to voters in Teller County, Colorado.

The company has not responded to messages requesting comment.

Yesterday morning, I shared this information with the Board of Supervisors and requested an agenda item about what happened with the ballots.

A few minutes before I spoke the board, I had the opportunity to give Bartolomie a heads-up as to what I was about to say. She told me I had the story wrong: that Integrated was not responsible for the error. It was the company that printed the ballots, or the anonymous third-party vendor. I told her that last year, the Fresno county supervisors had terminated their contract with Integrated. She said if this board did the same, she would quit and “probably sue the county”. When I asked her why, she said, “Because I like Integrated.” I told her I was going to ask the board to terminate the contract, and she told me if I did that, she would never speak to me again. “You’re off my list,” she said.

I informed the Board of Supervisors, CEO Darcie Antle and Bartolomie that I was planning to report on this exchange and write an op-edstating that an elected official attempted to discourage a member of the public from expressing a negative opinion about a private company receiving public funds. She tried to have a chilling effect on the press.

“Mendocino County is working with the Elected Assessor-Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters to ensure the people of Mendocino County cast their vote accurately. We will continue these efforts throughout the entire elections process. We appreciate the information that has been received. Our primary focus continues to be ensuring voters have the opportunity to cast their corrected ballots. Following the upcoming election, the County will work with Assessor-Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters to evaluate the circumstances that led to this error and determine what changes, if any, need to be made in the future.”

Local News
Sarah Reith came to Mendocino County in 2008 and worked as a reporter and freelancer, joining KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. She became the KZYX News Director in March, 2023.