Secretary of State

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin chairs a meeting of the State Board of Election Supervisors on Jan. 22, 2020.

The state’s efforts to find a new vendor to replace 10,000 aging electronic voting machines needs a closer look to ensure no single vendor is favored over another, state lawmakers say.

Dominion Voting Systems, a Denver, Colorado-based voting machine vendor, is expected to be one of the companies submitting a proposal to the state. Last month, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin asked the Office of State Procurement to issue a request for proposals, or RFP. The contract could be worth some $100 million.

In late 2018, Ardoin awarded the same contract to Dominion after it submitted a $95-million proposal, but the Office of State Procurement nixed the deal, according to media reports. One of Dominion’s competitors had complained the documents seeking proposals unfairly favored Dominion by requesting hardware specifications only Dominion could provide. Ardoin defended the selection of Dominion but deferred the matter until the RFP process could be rebooted, as it was on Jan. 27.

Ardoin’s office did not respond to The Ouachita Citizen’s request for comment.

Since the RFP controversy in 2018, Dominion became the subject of national headlines following the presidential election last November. After losing the election to now-President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump claimed Dominion had perpetrated widespread election fraud, specifically that the vendor had switched votes from him to Biden.

In response to those allegations, Ardoin and Dominion have each claimed the state’s use of Dominion’s voting equipment in recent elections was safe and secure.

Area legislators say their constituents have not forgotten the Trump campaign’s complaints about Dominion. Concerning the mention of Dominion, state Rep. Michael Echols said, “My gut tells me that’s kind of a scary word in the political world, especially if you’re a Republican.”

“If there’s any perception of fraud in elections, that’s a big, big concern,” said Echols, R-Monroe.

Echols was one of several state Republican legislators who attended a conference call initiated by Ardoin last Friday to discuss the RFP process for buying new electronic voting machines.

Area legislators told The Ouachita Citizen they still planned to scrutinize Ardoin’s RFP specifications and the proposals submitted by voting machine vendors.

“I just think it needs to be vetted,” said state Sen. Glen Womack, R-Harrisonburg. “We need to cover all our bases. We need a product that the voters are pleased with, something they’re comfortable with.”

Womack serves on the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee (SGA). The committee plans to hold a joint meeting with the House and Governmental Affairs Committee on Feb. 19 to address legislators’ concerns about Dominion and the RFP process.

“There have been some concerns raised about Dominion, but we need to see,” said state Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe. “As long as it’s transparent, I have no problems, but we need a robust system that can’t be hacked. My understanding is that no third parties had access to the system, but I’ll be interested to hear what SGA discovers during its hearing.”

State Rep. Foy Gadberry, who serves on House and Governmental Affairs, said he was concerned about the specifications in the RFP. The state also needed to ensure “there are enough spaces or columns in the new machines to accommodate more races and issues so that we can have one election and not have to break it up into multiple elections,” said Gadberry, R-West Monroe.

“We want a fair and transparent process, and we want a variety of companies to bid,” Echols said. “We can’t have an unfair election system, which would be detrimental to our democracy.”

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