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Amid criticism, Louisiana ends search for new voting machines



LOUISIANA – Louisiana’s secretary of state decided Wednesday to shelve his search for new voting machines after a barrage of complaints about the bid process from election technology companies, the head of a state Senate oversight committee and his fellow Republicans.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin sent a letter to Paula Tregre, Louisiana’s chief procurement officer, announcing his decision, asking her to remove the bid solicitation from a state website and requesting that she dismiss protests filed by two companies that wanted to seek the work.

In his pointed letter to Tregre and a follow-up statement, the Republican secretary of state accused Tregre of mishandling complaints from the vendors about the bid process, defended his search effort and suggested critics were using national concerns about election integrity to derail needed replacement voting machines.

Ardoin says he’ll redo the search in the future, though he gave no date for that plan.

It’s the second time the secretary of state has jettisoned his effort to replace 10,000 Election Day and early voting machines, many of which are decades old. Ardoin also ran into problems with a previous effort in 2018.

He says his decision to scrap the search for contractors that he began in January came after talks with Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, Republicans who backed Ardoin’s decision to end the bid solicitation.

“Louisiana elections are some of the most safe and secure elections in the United States and giving more oversight to the process will only strengthen that,” Schexnayder says in a statement released by Ardoin’s office.

Cortez says the decision “will bring an opportunity for full transparency.”

The lucrative contract was estimated to be worth up to $100 million.

Because of allegations of improper bid handling three years ago, Ardoin already was going to face heightened interest as he sought a new voting system. But the search also came during a national debate over the handling of the presidential election and amid allegations by former President Donald Trump and his supporters of widespread voter fraud.

The former president’s backers in Louisiana have suggested new machines could leave the state’s elections more vulnerable to hacking. They’ve complained the open bid process would allow Louisiana’s current voting machine vendor, Dominion Voting Systems, to seek a new contract. Trump supporters suggest that Dominion’s machines were somehow to blame for Trump’s loss in key swing states—but not his victory in Louisiana. Colorado-based Dominion has sued several high-profile figures nationally for spreading the allegations.