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Second vendor wants Louisiana voting machine contract redo

September 1, 2018

FILE - in this Nov. 8, 2016 file photo, Kirk Redmann of New Orleans gives a thumbs up after casting his ballot at St. Dominic's School, on Election Day. Another losing bidder for Louisiana’s voting machine replacement work is calling for a new selection process and cancellation of the current contract award. Hart InterCivic sent a letter to the state supporting the protest filed by a second vendor spurned for the contract. Hart said the evaluation was “flawed and lacked the fundamental transparency that Louisiana voters deserve.” (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Another losing bidder for Louisiana’s voting machine replacement work is calling for a new selection process and the cancellation of the current contract award.

Hart InterCivic sent a letter to the Office of State Procurement supporting the protest filed by a second vendor spurned for the voting machine contract. Hart said the evaluation was “flawed and lacked the fundamental transparency that Louisiana voters deserve.”

Contract negotiations with the winning bidder, Dominion Voting Systems, are stalled while the protest is under review.

The secretary of state’s office described Dominion as the low bidder for the voting machine replacement, with the company estimating the work would cost between $89 million and $95 million. Bid evaluation and financial documents released by the Office of State Procurement also showed Dominion with the least-expensive proposals for either leasing or buying voting machines.

But Hart said it offered a less-expensive proposal that doesn’t appear in the scoring documents, even though it was demonstrated to the selection committee. Election Systems and Software, the losing vendor that filed the official protest, also said it offered alternative proposals that were millions of dollars cheaper, but weren’t scored in the bid review.

“I believe all stakeholders in the process, especially the voters of Louisiana, deserve to know about all viable options available to them,” wrote Phillip Braithwaite, Hart president and CEO, in his letter to Paula Tregre, the head of Louisiana’s procurement office.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office wants to replace about 10,000 voting machines bought in 2005 with smaller devices, improved technology and a paper record of votes. Three companies competed. Hart didn’t file a formal protest, but Elections Systems and Software did.

Raising a long list of complaints, Election Systems and Software said the process used to choose Dominion was mishandled by Ardoin, his office and the team that evaluated the bids.

Ardoin, a Republican in the job since May, has defended the contracting process as fair, saying the evaluation committee “selected the best voting machines to keep Louisiana at the forefront of election security and integrity.” He’s said he expected challenges for such a highly competitive and lucrative contract.

Dominion hasn’t commented publicly on the protest, but has until Friday to submit a response to the Office of State Procurement.

Lawyers and other experts are examining the protest claims, and Tregre will use that analysis to decide whether to uphold or overturn the contract award. Her decision can be appealed.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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