Louisiana is delaying contract negotiations with the winning bidder for the state’s voting machine replacement work, while it considers a protest of the contract award. Paula Tregre, director of the Office of State Procurement, has told Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to refrain from conducting any contract talks until the outcome of the protest is settled, according to documents provided to The Associated Press on Tuesday. “The stay shall remain in effect until you are notified in writing that it has been lifted,” Tregre wrote in a Friday letter to Ardoin. She cited a state law that calls for stalling negotiations during the protest of a contract award unless the contract is deemed urgently needed “to protect the substantial interests of the state,” a threshold Tregre apparently didn’t believe was met.
One of the losing bidders for the voting machine contract, Election Systems and Software, filed the protest last week, objecting to the choice of Dominion Voting Systems for a deal estimated to cost the state up to $95 million.
Election Systems and Software said the process used to choose Dominion to replace 10,000 early-voting and Election Day machines was mishandled by Ardoin, his office and the team that evaluated the bids.
Ardoin has defended the contracting process as fair, saying the evaluation committee “selected the best voting machines to keep Louisiana at the forefront of election security and integrity.” Dominion hasn’t commented publicly on the protest, but has until Sept. 7 to submit a response to the Office of State Procurement.