Before deciding whether to change its ballot vendor, the DuPage County Election Commission first wants to know if it can find a better deal.
Members of the election board on Thursday agreed to let other vendors compete for a possible contract to print ballots for the February and April local elections. The board isn't expected to make a decision on whether to drop the commission's existing ballot vendor, Liberty Systems, until the bidding process is complete.
"We have not canceled any contract," Commissioner Christopher Hage said. "What we're working on is the proposal, the specs and a meeting of vendors to present what it is we're asking for in the bids. Then we're collecting those proposals for evaluation."
Before Thursday, there was some doubt about whether it was legally possible for the commission to seek price quotes from other vendors without terminating the Liberty Systems contract, which doesn't expire until April.
Even though it can end the contract by providing 30 days' notice, the commission next week would have had to start making payments to Liberty Systems for the February election.
But a representative of Liberty Systems agreed to suspend the payment requirement to give the commission time to make a final determination about printing ballots and other election materials.
In the meantime, Hage pointed out that the commission isn't legally required to seek bids for ballot printing.
"We are taking that extra transparency step," Hage said. "We are taking advantage of a more open process."
The multimillion-dollar deal with Liberty Systems was one of 12 contracts mentioned in a report critical of the commission's ethics and procurement practices. That report, prepared by consultants hired by the county, indicated the commission failed to follow its own guidelines when it awarded the contracts.
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin has since appointed all new members to the three-person election board.
Commissioner Arthur Ludwig said after Thursday's meeting that considering other vendors for printing services is part of the mission that Cronin gave the board to be more open and transparent.
"The proof will be if we save the county some money," Ludwig said. "That's our goal."
Ballots: Transparency, saving money goals of open bidding