Here’s a voting machine story that could only have come from Louisiana, where entertaining arguments about politics is one reason the state bills itself as the Sportsman’s Paradise.
The secretary of state, Kyle Ardoin, is in trouble on multiple fronts while seeking bids to replace the state’s 10,000 voting machines for use on election day and for early voting.
On the one hand, potential bidders for the estimated $95 million contract complain that the bid requirements are set up to provide an unfair advantage to the existing supplier — which just happens to be Dominion Voting Systems, the company accused by supporters of Donald Trump of tampering with election results in several states.
Another voting machine company, Election Systems and Software, has filed a protest about Ardoin’s requirements for the new machines. ES&S claimed this has created a non-competitive situation because the type of paper voting records, screen sizes, and installation plan favor Dominion, which has supplied Louisiana’s voting machines since 2011. A third bidder made similar complaints to the state.
It turns out that Louisiana has been trying unsuccessfully for some time to replace its voting machines. In 2018, a previous secretary of state chose Dominion for the upgrade, but Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration voided the sale. ES&S claimed Ardoin’s predecessor as secretary of state attempted to manipulate the outcome of the bidding, and the state procurement officer said the secretary of state’s office didn’t follow legal requirements.
It’s embarrassing enough that Louisiana has had to delay the purchase of new voting machines for three years, but the mere mention that Dominion is involved in the state’s elections set off other problems for Ardoin.
Speaking recently at a luncheon of East Baton Rouge Parish Republican women, Ardoin received a surprising reminder about suspicion of Dominion’s products from his audience.
The Associated Press reported, “The women assembled at the Baton Rouge event interrupted his remarks, yelled questions, chastised his responses and accused the Republican elections chief of dodging their concerns. One woman shouted at him from a table, then moved closer to challenge him more directly, saying: ‘You work for us, and we are unhappy.’ ”
The poor guy even drew fire for reporting that Louisiana had a “phenomenal” election process last year. That could have prompted a question of how the allegedly rigged Dominion machines worked so smoothly in a state Trump won but were so bad in some of the states he lost.
Instead, the audience asked why the state should upgrade if everything went so well. They wondered if buying new machines would leave the system more vulnerable to hacking.
Louisiana’s quest for new voting machines may not be over. A key Republican state senator has asked Ardoin to get more outside advice and start a new round of bidding. It is clear that the debate over voting machines is thriving.