Louisiana renews search for vendor to replace voting system

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Amanda Bohren holds her one-year-old son, Luke Spencer Bohren, as she waits to vote on Election Day, in the Mid City section of New Orleans, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has resumed efforts to replace thousands of decades-old voting machines, with the state’s elections chief issuing a new solicitation for bidders Wednesday amid a political climate where such contracts are getting intensified scrutiny.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin already was going to face strong interest in his search for a contractor to update Louisiana’s voting system because allegations of improper bid handling derailed a previous effort to replace the machines in 2018.

But the Republican elected official’s vendor search is expected to draw heightened monitoring because of the national debate over the presidential election and baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Ardoin understands the timing isn’t optimal, but he said the bid solicitation has safeguards he hopes will reassure people.

Louisiana’s “voting equipment has been around for almost 30 years now, and I just don’t know how much longer they can last without us having major issues. It’s time to do this,” Ardoin said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“The timing may not be perfect, but it certainly gives the Louisiana people the assurance that I’m looking at it from the perspective of a secure, safe and transparent process and election system.”

Louisiana’s current voting machine contractor, Dominion Voting Systems, has specifically been targeted by conservatives who claimed without evidence that its machines were easily manipulated and somehow to blame for Trump’s loss in other states. Trump won Louisiana’s electoral votes. Dominion has sued Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for spreading the unsubstantiated claims.

Ardoin said vendors who bid for Louisiana’s contract will have to disclose any foreign ownership, countries in which they operate and names of board members, in what appears to be a strike at some of the misinformation spread about Dominion.

Bids for the work are due by March 24. The state could either buy or lease new Election Day and early voting machines, but Ardoin said any lease would require Louisiana to have sole control of the machines.

Louisiana’s current voting system has drawn the ire of national experts because the electronic machines do not produce a paper record. They say these machines, used in only a few states, are vulnerable and hackers could manipulate outcomes without detection.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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