Lancaster County is formally ending its relationship with the mail ballot vendor responsible for multiple issues in the 2021 Municipal Primary.
On Wednesday, the board of commissioners voted unanimously to end the county’s contract with Michigan Election Resources — now known as Plerus — to seek damages from the company and to search for a new vendor.
“I’m very upset, quite frankly,” Commissioner Ray D’Agostino, who chairs the county board of elections, said, “because this wasn’t just one mistake. It was three.”
During the primary election on May 18, when election workers began opening the mail-in ballots produced by Michigan Election Resources, they discovered that many of them were unreadable by the county’s ballot scanning machines because the company had printed them out of order.
As a result, the county had to hand transfer votes on more than 12,630 unscannable mail-in ballots to new, machine-readable ballots over a period of four days.
Earlier in May, approximately 2,700 voters were alerted that some had received incorrect voting instructions telling them that they did not need to pay postage. Additionally, approximately 100 voters in the Marietta and Mount Joy areas received incorrect return envelopes intended for other voters, causing them to have to cancel their ballots and receive new ones.
The company was known as Michigan Election Resources until late May, when it changed its name to Plerus.
As the county brought its relationship with Michigan Elections Resources/Plerus to an end, it also authorized the county’s purchasing department to issue a new request for bids from companies that want to provide the mail-in ballot printing service.
Michigan Election Resources/Plerus would be excluded from that contract under the county’s purchasing rules, Director of Purchasing Linda Schreiner said at Tuesday’s commissioners work session.
The new request for bids also states that the vendor must detail delivery and approval dates of the draft sample ballots and dates for production and mailing of the actual ballots. The request for proposal also requires that the company keep logs of any malfunctions in its machinery, which Michigan Election Resources did not do, making identifying impacted ballots difficult.
Under the old contract with Michigan Elections Resources, the county was not receiving advance samples of the printed ballots to ensure functionality as the county does with its in-person ballots, Christa Miller, chief clerk of elections, said in an email Wednesday.
Schreiner also said Tuesday the request for proposal also requires that the vendor send periodic samples of the actual ballots so the county can assure accuracy.
The county will also be seeking $23,870.42 in damages from Michigan Elections Resources for the cost of remarking the misprinted ballots, as well as any additional costs the purchasing department incurs for having to reissue the bid.
Courtney Morrison, the county’s assistant solicitor, said the county will be seeking to recover these damages first via demand letter, then the courts, if necessary.
Matt Sandretto, CEO of Plerus, formerly Michigan Elections Resources, said that the company has already compensated the county for the errors by not charging it for its services, but he would not comment on whether it will pay the $23,870.42 the county is seeking.
Asked if he had anything to say to Lancaster County voters, Sandretto said, “You know … we made a statement on this at the time the error occurred and we offered remedies to it, so we don’t think Lancaster County should have to bear that cost.”
Sandretto said the remedies he was referring to included an email offer to send one of the company’s executives to help with the hand count of ballots — an offer to which the county did not respond.
Asked if his remarks mean his company will pay the $23,870.42, Sandretto reiterated no comment.