Och Tamale Fall 2020 - University of Redlands

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Bulldogs building bridges


Kevin Runbeck ’79: Honoring others’ truths Runbeck Elections Services Inc. sits behind Arizona’s Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. For years, its president and CEO, Kevin Runbeck ’79, has looked out his office window to see airplanes taking off and landing— hundreds, maybe thousands. Lately? Not as many.

Voting in a pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic has meant people haven’t been traveling, and airports have stopped bustling. Runbeck has seen first-hand other ways that COVID-19 is changing America as well. As its name suggests, Runbeck Elections Services is a full-service election printing, equipment, and software company serving more than 20 states and a third of the country’s electorate. Runbeck’s father founded the company as a boutique advertising agency in 1972. In 1988, Runbeck purchased it; what started with seven employees now encompasses two buildings occupying 140,000 square feet, with almost 400 employees and a digital printing facility. If you’ve voted in California, Arizona, Washington, or Oregon, chances are your ballot was 30 | www.redlands.edu/OchTamale

printed, mailed, or somehow verified by Runbeck’s firm. Public health concerns have fueled interest in voting by mail, and Runbeck notes a lot of noise—allegations and conspiracy theories—now surround how trustworthy the process is. Runbeck is first to dispute the potential of widespread fraud because he knows precisely how meticulous the process is. Ballots are checked by the same systems that banks use to verify signatures on checks. Both electronic and human eyes verify them. If anything looks forged, the ballot gets kicked out, and the voter gets called for questioning and, in some cases, is prosecuted. “It’s possible to change a few ballots here or there, but I have serious doubts that any entity could change ballots in a volume necessary to impact the election,” Runbeck says. “There’s just no way that someone could commit that level of fraud and not be caught.”

The Redlands connection Runbeck originally dreamt of being an oceanographer; he came to Redlands on a lark. After spending a weekend on campus

during an orientation program, “I just knew I was home.” By his own account, he wasn’t the best student, but graduated from Redlands with an outlook that served him well. “I am a classic entrepreneur, so I’m undaunted by failure,” he says. “The bottom line is you only have to succeed one more time than you fail, and you’re a hero. I took my less-than-stellar performance at Redlands as just an opportunity to apply myself better in the future.” Runbeck’s pledge brothers from Chi Sigma Chi, whom he met at Redlands 40 years ago, are still some of his closest friends. He credits Redlands with helping him build and maintain incredible connections and teaching him to be comfortable dialoguing with people of different beliefs.

A ‘politics-free zone’ Runbeck says his company is a “politicsfree zone,” despite (and because of) the work they do. “Our mission is to defend democracy, and we do that by ensuring an accurate tabulation that represents what the voters wanted,” he says. “Our job