How Louisiana’s bid for brand spanking new voting machines fell aside amid baseless fraud allegations | Elections

Louisiana’s high elections official, Kyle Ardoin, has identified for years the state wanted to switch its fleet of growing old voting machines. After a earlier effort to take action in 2018 was rejected, he formally started the hunt once more in January, looking for a vendor for the possibly $100 million contract.

However the brand new effort coincided with a wave of baseless allegations in opposition to one of many three bidders, Dominion Voting Techniques, that took maintain in right-wing media within the wake of Donald Trump’s election loss in November.

On the similar time, the 2 different firms looking for the work halted the method submitting official protests of the plan. And Republican state lawmakers, a lot of whom had been inundated with calls from constituents demanding the state not rent Dominion, slowed the method down, looking for extra oversight and public hearings on the contract.

As strain mounted, Ardoin confronted the prospect of failing to get approval from the legislative funds committee whose OK he wanted. Final week, he deserted the trouble.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin introduced Wednesday afternoon that he was instantly cancelling the method to amass new voting machines to …

Ardoin stated he’s now getting down to dispel misinformation in regards to the state’s election system earlier than restarting the bid.

“I believe sadly these people who’re rooted deep in conspiracy theories might not settle for what we offer to them way of transparency,” Ardoin stated in an interview. “However on the similar time it is gotten extra people concerned within the course of, asking questions. And it’s our job to reply these questions and to offer proof of what we’re doing proper.

“Now it is as much as the Legislature to find out the way forward for the election system in Louisiana and what we are able to afford and the place we’ll head. And I will be glad to take part in that dialogue.”

The saga has revealed the extent that election points – together with considerations with no foundation in actuality – have contaminated politics in Louisiana, a state Trump carried simply in 2020.

One other elections know-how agency is objecting to the phrases of Louisiana’s voting machine search, accusing the secretary of state of making an attempt to…

It has additionally produced a public spat between Ardoin and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Republican who leads the influential Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee and who is commonly talked about as a possible candidate for governor in 2023.

Republican activists and voters in Louisiana who consider within the unfounded allegations that Dominion helped engineer an enormous vote-switching scheme have additionally made their voices heard for the reason that election. Lawmakers and even the Workplace of State Procurement have obtained calls and emails from constituents demanding Dominion not be chosen.

Lenar Whitney, the Republican Nationwide Committeewoman for Louisiana, has promoted conspiracy theories about Dominion on her Fb web page and rallied fellow “patriots” to strain Ardoin to desert the bid for brand spanking new machines. She pointedly questioned Ardoin in regards to the contract throughout a Republican girls’s assembly in Baton Rouge just lately. On Feb. 18, she introduced she had been tapped RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel to serve on an “election integrity committee.”

A mysterious billboard popped up on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge just lately telling individuals to name their legislator in regards to the “waste” within the voting machine contract. The conservative radio host Jeff Crouere, who writes an occasional column on this newspaper, in early February reduce an advert urging individuals to name Ardoin’s workplace in regards to the machines.

“Inform Kyle we don’t need a Dominion voting machine lawsuit right here like that they had in Georgia,” Crouere stated within the spot, which he stated was paid for a non-public citizen. “Name Kyle and inform him to get sincere voting machines.”

If Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin wanted one other indication in regards to the politically dicey nature of his work to switch Louisiana’s voting machi…

Sarcastically, Louisiana already makes use of Dominion machines and has for years. In actual fact, the delay within the contract might be sure that the state will proceed to make use of Dominion machines for longer. Ardoin pointed that out in a sharply worded letter to Hewitt.

“Please know that your continued quest to position your self into this dialogue has now resulted in Louisiana’s extended use of its present stock of Dominion voting machines for election day and early voting,” Ardoin wrote within the letter launched Friday. “Now that the RFP has been terminated, our company has been pressured to proceed with Dominion as a vendor upfront of any significant work to find out a path ahead.”

Hewitt has homed in on what she sees as a scarcity of transparency within the bid for brand spanking new machines, and accused Ardoin of dashing into the method with out legislative oversight. In her newest response to Ardoin, on Friday, she stated, “I can perceive if the secretary is embarrassed, however I have been crystal clear from the start. This course of should be clear and thorough.”

Ardoin has repeatedly stated Louisiana had easy elections in 2020, even after the courts stepped in to resolve a partisan battle over mail-in voting through the pandemic.

On the similar time, most of the roughly 9,500 election day machines used statewide are approaching obsolescence, he stated. Some date to 1995, and others had been inbuilt 2005. That will increase the chance they may fail due to previous age.

The state additionally leases 780 touch-screen machines – the kind of tools Ardoin stated the state is seeking to buy – from Dominion.

Voting consultants have stated states ought to have a paper path of their machines, one thing Ardoin sought to do within the new contract.

At present is the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday when African People peacefully demonstrating their want to train their proper to vote we…

Conspiracy theories about Dominion aren’t the one factor that twisted up the voting machine contract.

Dominion and two different voting firms – Election Techniques & Software program and Hart InterCivic – expressed curiosity within the new contract. Each Election Techniques and Hart complained the request for proposals, referred to as RFP, launched Ardoin was so narrowly tailor-made that they couldn’t compete, and Dominion was certain to win. The corporations filed prolonged correspondence with the Workplace of State Procurement that serves as referee in such bids.

Ardoin stated he supposed to deal with a few of their considerations an addendum. However earlier than he may, the 2 corporations filed protests with Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne’s workplace, halting the method.

Hewitt had tried to carry a joint committee listening to in regards to the course of earlier than Ardoin launched the solicitation, however delays associated to climate and the pandemic prevented them. In late February, she fired off a pointed letter to Ardoin accusing him of “sidestepping enter” from the general public, lawmakers and others and asking him to cancel the bid.

Whereas Dominion has been within the nationwide information essentially the most, Hewitt stated in an interview she isn’t in opposition to anyone firm and doesn’t wish to rehash allegations of fraud in different states.

“I believe we now have to have a good course of,” Hewitt stated. “I don’t know if every part that’s been stated about Dominion is true. I believe loads of it’s false. … I don’t assume I’m going to let accusations in different states affect how we transfer ahead in Louisiana.”

Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, the chair of the Home Appropriations Committee, stated he has obtained extra calls just lately from constituents about Dominion than in regards to the state funds or tax reform, the massive matter of debate on the State Capitol for the upcoming session. He stated the allegations about Dominion, “precise or not,” influenced the method, as lawmakers had been inundated with calls from constituents anxious in regards to the firm. Republicans maintain the bulk on the funds committee that should log out on Ardoin’s contract for brand spanking new machines.

However lawmakers had been in search of oversight even earlier than the Dominion allegations turned a trigger célèbre for some Republican activists.

Final 12 months, earlier than the 2020 presidential election, Zeringue helped put a provision within the state funds that required the voting contract to get approval from the joint funds committee. That was aimed toward giving lawmakers oversight within the wake of a earlier bid for brand spanking new machines in 2018, which was tossed out after Edwards’ administration discovered flaws in Ardoin’s number of Dominion.

“There’s little doubt the presidential election was an element, however it was even earlier than that that was a difficulty,” he stated.

Dominion CEO John Poulos stated in an announcement that the agency understands Ardoin’s determination to cancel the request for proposals.

“Sadly, months of baseless allegations of election fraud have adversely affected the state’s procurement course of, creating an untenable setting for fact-based deliberation,” Poulos stated. “We stand prepared right this moment to offer a voting system resolution that meets Louisiana’s present and evolving requirements. We pledge to proceed our dedication to providing progressive, dependable election know-how tailor-made to particular person states’ necessities.”

Dominion has been making an attempt to rehabilitate its picture within the wake of the election, submitting defamation lawsuits in opposition to Trump legal professionals Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and the founder and CEO of MyPillow Mike Lindell for falsely accusing the corporate of rigging the 2020 election.

However because the allegations about Dominion swirled, the agency additionally sought to struggle again in Louisiana’s court docket of public opinion – particularly, the right-wing part.

Throughout an advert break on the conservative Moon Griffon’s radio present final month, a voice with a thick Southern accent defined that Dominion has been utilized in Louisiana for over 20 years. Over a sleepy acoustic guitar riff, the person stated Dominion’s machines do “one easy factor precisely and truthfully: Assist native elected officers depend your votes.”

“Each single statewide official in Louisiana – Republican and Democrat – was elected utilizing Dominion machines,” the advert stated. “Utilizing those self same Dominion machines, President Trump received Louisiana with extra votes in 2020 than he did in 2016.”

The corporate took out comparable advertisements in The Advocate, and on the Hayride, a right-wing weblog. The writer of the Hayride posted a whole piece dedicated to explaining to his readers why he took Dominion’s advert {dollars}. Dominion stated it wished to share info in regards to the firm as “defamatory disinformation” is being unfold.

Two days after Ardoin deserted the most recent bid for brand spanking new machines, Crouere, the conservative radio host who voiced the advert urging individuals to name Ardoin in regards to the contract, had Ardoin on his present.

Crouere peppered the secretary with questions on Dominion, saying there was “concern, large time” in regards to the firm.

Ardoin insisted he wasn’t “sticking up” for anyone firm and merely needs to get the most effective machines potential for the voters, which he intends to do the request for proposals.

“Our elections become a political soccer,” Ardoin stated. “And that’s not proper.”

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