Company linked to ballot bungle in Sanpete County has history of errors, financial troubles

(Zak Podmore | Tribune file photo) Signs mark a ballot drop-off location in Utah on Oct. 8, 2020.

The private company that mailed 13,000 ballots with a missing signature line to voters in Sanpete County has a history of financial troubles and printing errors, according to court filings, news articles and interviews.

Integrated Voting Systems (IVS), a Dinuba, Calif.-based company, came under scrutiny this week after Sanpete County voters opened their ballots on Tuesday to find that the critical signature line on the ballot envelopes was mistakenly left blank.

County staff and IVS scrambled to address the error and inform voters of the steps they could take to submit their signatures, and Sanpete County Clerk Sandy Neill said she has been satisfied with the company’s response. As soon as the error was discovered Tuesday, Neill said IVS rushed to mail postcards to every affected voter, explaining the missing signature line and listing steps voters could take to ensure their ballot would still be counted.

It is not the first time IVS has been blamed for an error, however. In 2018, officials in Montrose County, Colo., said the company misprinted a code on over 10,600 ballots, necessitating a laborious hand count. (In a lawsuit filed by IVS last year, company attorneys blamed a Colorado-based contractor for the mistake and said it lost over $600,000 in revenue after at least five Colorado counties switched vendors following the Montrose incident. The case appears to have been settled out of court, and the contractor did not return a request for comment Thursday.)

Sevier County Clerk Steven Wall said his office signed a contract with IVS several years ago after the county’s previous ballot vendor raised prices. He called the company “pretty good to work with,” though he said signature lines were left blank on ballots in a recent municipal election in his county as well.

“They didn’t print on the back of the envelope, on the back of that flap," Wall said. "It was basically the same thing that happened to Sanpete only it was a lot smaller group because it was just a small town; it wasn’t the whole county.” IVS assumed the cost of mailing postcards to affected voters as it did in Sanpete County this week.

Tooele County Clerk Marilyn Gillette said her county also contracts with IVS and called it an “excellent company” in an email last month.

Utah does not regulate which companies counties can contract with to print and mail ballots, and there is no public list of ballot vendors used in the state. The Salt Lake Tribune found clerks are contracting with at least seven different ballot vendors this election, and at least one county, Emery, is printing and mailing its ballots in-house.

IVS is on a list of approved vendors in California for 2020, though its ability to conduct business in the state was temporarily frozen in 2017 due to its failure to pay income taxes.

And following the Montrose County misprint, an investigation by the Grand Junction Sentinel uncovered a history of debt and questionable dealings linked to IVS, which uses the same website address and physical address as a company called Integrated Voting Solutions that shut down in 2016.

In 2018, IVS' CEO denied a connection between the two similarly named entities in a statement to the Fresno Bee, but a 2020 list of state-approved ballot vendors in California links the two companies.

Contacted Wednesday, a spokesperson for IVS declined to comment on the error in Sanpete County, and a voicemail left for a company executive was not immediately returned on Thursday.

As was first reported in the Sentinel, Integrated Voting Solutions' founder Eric Kozlowski and his wife Ronda filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2016 with their creditors — which included banks, credit card companies, title companies and contractors — claiming the couple owed over $122 million in debt.

Kozlowski said in court filings that he retired from the ballot vending business in 2015 around the same time the new company Integrated Voting Systems was registered to his then-teenage daughter, Rebecca Kozlowski, who still is listed as the company’s officer, president and director on the most recent business filings with the Utah Department of Commerce.

The website integravote.com was used by Integrated Voting Solutions from its founding in 2004 to around 2015 when the company sued a competitor under trademark infringement laws for registering integravote.net. Integravote.com is currently used by Integrated Voting Systems.

Attorneys for Eric Kozlowski’s creditors argued in court documents that the name change was designed to make the bankruptcy proceedings more favorable to the businessman, but Eric Kozlowski said his daughter, then a college student, had founded the company independently with trust fund money and the help of a family acquaintance.

The bankruptcy proceedings concluded in 2018, and Eric and Ronda Kozlowski were required to pay $2.8 million to those making claims against them. The remaining $119.7 million in claims were discharged without payment.

Neill, the Sanpete County clerk, said a separate ballot vendor mistake in the presidential primary in February where around 250 voters received the wrong party’s ballots was the result of an error made by a different ballot vendor, not IVS.

“[That company] didn’t know who got the wrong ballots,” Neill said, so there was no way to easily contact affected voters. “It was a nightmare. It was unacceptable.”

Neill said Sanpete signed a contract with IVS this spring and didn’t have any problems in the June primary. She was glad to see IVS take responsibility in responding to the recent error, including by assuming the cost of mailing postcards.

A proof of the ballot envelope reviewed by her office several months ago had the signature line, Neill added.

Neill said IVS hasn’t invoiced the county yet for the November election and doesn’t know if it will offer any discounts to cover the cost of the additional staff she has hired this week to help deal with the missing signature line.

Sanpete is the home county of Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the state’s chief elections officer and the front-running candidate for governor. Justin Lee, elections director under Cox, said Wednesday he had no comment beyond those of the county clerk.

Zak Podmore is a Report for America corps member for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.