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Company won’t sue Louisiana over voided voting machine deal

December 12, 2018
FILE- In this July 20, 2018 file photo, Interim Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, R-Baton Rouge, talks to reporters about his last-minute decision to run in the special election for secretary of state, in Baton Rouge, La. Dominion Voting Systems, the company whose multimillion-dollar contract award to replace Louisiana’s voting machines was scrapped said Wednesday, Dec. 12 it won’t sue over the cancellation. Dominion’s decision will keep Louisiana from being embroiled in costly litigation as the state still hasn’t identified all the money needed to replace its voting machines. It remains unclear, however, when Ardoin will restart the contractor selection process. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The company whose multimillion-dollar contract award to replace Louisiana’s voting machines was scrapped said Wednesday it won’t sue over the cancellation. But the avoidance of litigation won’t immediately restart the state’s stalled work to update its decade-old voting system.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration voided the contract deal with Dominion Voting Systems in October, with the state’s chief procurement officer saying the secretary of state’s office mishandled the bid process, not following legal requirements.

Dominion disagreed. But company spokeswoman Kay Stimson said the Colorado-based vendor won’t dispute the matter in court.

“Continuing to prolong this situation will only further delay the selection and installation of a new and modern voting system for Louisiana, a goal which we continue to support,” Stimson said in a statement.

She said the company “remains adamant that no legitimate grounds for protest and cancellation of the bid award were ever provided.”

Dominion’s decision will keep Louisiana from being embroiled in costly litigation as the state still hasn’t identified all the money needed to replace its voting machines. It remains unclear, however, when Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin will restart the contractor selection process.

Ardoin’s office previously said the secretary of state, who defended Dominion’s selection, wanted to see if the canceled contract award would prompt litigation before redoing the machine replacement effort. On Wednesday, when notified of Dominion’s decision by The Associated Press, Ardoin’s office didn’t release a new timeline.

“The old process is over, and we’re going to have regroup and look at all of our options going forward,” said Ardoin spokeswoman Brandee Patrick.

New voting machines aren’t expected to be in place by the 2019 election, when the governorship, six other statewide elected positions and all 144 state legislative seats will be on the ballot.

Dominion intends to bid again whenever the vendor search is redone, Stimson said.

The secretary of state’s office started searching for a voting machine contractor in March, soliciting bids to replace 10,000 Election Day and early voting machines, bought in 2005, with smaller devices, improved technology and a paper record of votes.

Three companies bid for the contract.

Dominion was chosen as the winner in August, estimating its work would cost up to $95 million. But the decision was embroiled in accusations the secretary of state’s office attempted to manipulate the outcome.

Election Systems and Software, known as ES&S, raised allegations of impropriety in June, during the bid process. The company said the secretary of state’s office issued voting machine standards only Dominion could meet.

Ardoin said release of those standards was a mistake and he withdrew them. The Office of State Procurement, which oversaw the bid review, scrapped the original evaluation committee and removed Ardoin from the new review team in response.

The contested standards were not used to evaluate bidders, Ardoin said.

Still, in October, Louisiana’s chief procurement officer Paula Tregre voided the voting machine contract award in response to an ES&S protest. She said the secretary of state’s office did not properly post voting system standards expected of a contractor, as required. She also determined Dominion’s proposal involved equipment not properly certified.

That decision was upheld by Tregre’s boss, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

Ardoin, a Republican, criticized the decision from the Democratic Edwards’ administration as political, aimed at helping an Edwards supporter who represents ES&S. The administration called that absurd and suggested Ardoin wanted to deflect attention on the issue.

The voting machine replacement began under Ardoin’s former boss, Tom Schedler, who resigned in May amid sexual harassment allegations.

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

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