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Bowen: Contractor messed up voter guide mailing

By Josh Richman
Friday, August 6th, 2010 at 2:24 pm in Assembly, Debra Bowen, Elections, Jerry Hill.

A contractor’s error was responsible for some Bay Area households never receiving their official state voters’ guides before the June 8 primary, Secretary of State Debra Bowen reports.

In a letter sent yesterday to Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who’d contacted Bowen’s office after taking complaints from San Mateo County residents, Bowen said managers at Admail West, the Sacramento firm contracted to mail the guides, admitted “their company is responsible for duplicate or triplicate mailings of state voter guides to voter households in some counties, while at the same time failing to mail a single state voter guide to other households.”

“No one at Admail West has ever been able to fully explain the extent of the mailing problem, or why the company did not have better quality-assurance procedures in place for such an important statewide project,” Bowen wrote. “Moreover, Admail West managers reported that the one employee who handled the mailing data and caused the San Mateo County mailing errors passed away in June, and many key details are not known by anyone else at the company.”

Regardless of who screwed up at Admail West, she wrote, “there is no excuse for the sloppy tracking and lack of quality control by any vendor when the Secretary of State’s office provides extremely clear mailing specifications and voter address data.”

Checking around online, I see that Admail West’s president is Kathleen Pescetti. Her husband is Anthony Pescetti, the Republican former Assemblyman from Gold River; their son, also named Anthony, is Admail West’s business development manager.

Hill, D-San Mateo, issued a news release today noting there are still unanswered questions that must be resolved to ensure this doesn’t happen again: “I will be working with the Secretary of State to identify corrective actions that may include legislation or a state audit.”

Hill on June 16 introduced AB 814, which would require that for a statewide election, officials include a notification with the sample ballot informing voters they can obtain a voter information guide on the Secretary of State’s website. The notice also would include the telephone number, designated by the county elections official, at which a voter could request that a ballot pamphlet be mailed to him or her; ballot pamphlets also would be made available at polling places. The bill passed the state Senate Appropriations Committee on a unanimous vote Monday, and now awaits a Senate floor vote.

Hill also this year authored AB 1717, authorizing county and city elections officials to create procedures letting a voter opt out of receiving their sample ballot, voter pamphlet and polling-place notice by mail and instead get them electronically by e-mail or on the county’s or city’s Web site. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed that bill into law last month.

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  • Doug

    Let’s be clear here. The Secretary of State’s office is responsible for the foul up. Delegating the mailing to a contractor does not allow the SoS to delegate its responsibility for getting the information to the voters. ‘Fess up Bowen. Take the blame ….and do a better job vetting your contractors.

  • John W

    Oh, come on now. Of course, the Secretary of State’s office is responsible for what happens, whether due to errors by contractors they employ or by internal staff. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t provide an explanation of the circumstances that caused the error to happen. To the best of my knowledge, the Secretary of State’s office has a pretty darn good track record under Bowen’s management. What would you have her do, just say she’s in charge and responsible no matter what and then not provide any information on the specifics of what transpired?