Morning must-read: Volusia elections supervisor says ballot outsourcing 'failed miserably'

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As you read the following story, keep asking yourself this (as I did): Why on Earth is the any Supervisor of Elections “privatizing” or “outsourcing” the printing and mailing of its absentee ballots? Not everything done by government needs to be “run like a business.”

These are our ballots. This is our voting. This process is sacred, yet this Supervisor of Elections handed it off to the lowest bidder.

Volusia County tried outsourcing the printing and mailing of its absentee ballots for the first time this year, reports Andrew Gant. The results haven’t been good.

They’ve been bad enough that Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall, saying the idea “failed miserably,” is taking back the job and planning to bill the contractor for the mess.

“We opened up a phone bank to take all these calls from some very, very angry people,” McFall said Wednesday, saying phone calls have surpassed 100 per day recently.

Across the county, thousands of people who ordered absentee ballots earlier this month have been waiting and waiting for them to arrive. They’ve grown frustrated trying to get answers.

The elections office had received more than 63,000 absentee ballot requests as of Tuesday night. The vast majority of those have been delayed. So McFall has expressed frustration, too, with contractor Advanced Ballot Solutions.

McFall said an initial run of 45,000 to 50,000 ballots “sat for days at ABS,” then got sent to a mail processing center in Tampa (instead of Orlando), then transferred to Jacksonville. That shipment “is finally just now being delivered to the people requesting a ballot. This is unacceptable,” McFall said.

Absentee voting is highly popular across Florida and in Volusia, where the 63,367 mail requests so far represents more than a quarter of the 245,842 total ballots cast in the 2008 election.

Volusia and other large counties, anticipating a record year of absentee requests, outsourced the printing and mailing duties to ABS this year in the hopes it would save time and staffing costs.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.