Lawmakers vow to scrutinize Louisiana’s voting machine search

Louisiana lawmakers intend to closely watch as the state shops for new voting machines, a vendor search that comes in the aftermath of a divisive, partisan national uproar about the mechanics of casting ballots and the equipment used in that process.

The solicitation for contractors went out last week, and lawmakers are planning a joint hearing of the House and Senate elections oversight committees later this month to dig into the details of Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s effort to replace 10,000 decades-old voting machines. No hearing date has been announced yet.

“We as legislators want to be able to tell our constituents that this is a good process and that we are confident in the vendor that was selected. I think part of our responsibility is rebuilding the public trust. I think some of the national issues have caused everyone to have doubts,” says Sen. Sharon Hewitt, the Slidell Republican who chairs the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that oversees voting issues.

Ardoin held a conference call Friday with GOP lawmakers to talk through the search he started Jan. 27 and what criteria a contractor must meet. The Republican elections chief has offered a similar briefing to Democrats, according to Ardoin’s spokesperson, Tyler Brey.

“As you can imagine, we’ve been getting a lot of calls from legislators who are getting constituent calls asking about voting issues,” Brey says. “We just wanted to provide some information that will maybe give peace of mind.”

Voting machine contracts stretch over years, the deals are lucrative and only a few companies offer the equipment. Louisiana is expected to be the only state in the market for new machines this year, putting a spotlight on its work.

Even before the controversies of the 2020 presidential election, Ardoin was going to face intensified scrutiny about his efforts to buy or lease thousands of new voting machines after allegations of improper bid handling derailed a previous effort to replace the equipment in 2018. 

Lawmakers already have added one new wrinkle to Ardoin’s replacement effort. They included language in this year’s budget requiring the secretary of state to get contract approval from the joint House and Senate budget committee before entering into any deal for election equipment. Read the full story.