Secretary of State pulls plug on effort to buy new voting machines

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced Wednesday afternoon that he was immediately cancelling the process to acquire new voting machines to replace the fleet of 30-year-old machines – a contract potentially worth $100 million over 10 years.

He said the process, called Request for Proposals, or RFP, was compliant with all the laws. But questions arose about the use of a technology called Direct Recording Electronic for voting machines, which is required by law, and how that technology impacts the level of competition for this state solicitation.

“I am withdrawing the RFP to spend the next few months seeking to undo the damage to voter confidence done by those who willfully spread misinformation and disinformation,” Ardoin said in a prepared statement. “While we respect calls for more discussion of the process, it must be noted that Louisiana began preparing for this acquisition following the 2016 federal election cycle. It was never rushed or inconsistent with accepted budgetary or procurement laws. A glaring omission from the calls for more discussion is any credible criticism of our current election process.”

Two of the bidders had officially protested the RFP. State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, the Slidell Republican who as head of the Senate & Governmental Affairs committee oversees voting issues, had called Ardoin to cancel the bidding process amid questions from lawmakers.

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“We cannot let election administration become just another political football for politicians or voting machine vendors to kick around, without any understanding or concern for the consequences,” Ardoin said.

Ardoin took the action after discussing the issue with House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, who agreed with the action, and Senate President Page Cortez. “This will bring an opportunity for full transparency on the purchasing process and election systems for all levels of government,” Cortez said.

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