LACAG: LOUISIANANS SHOULD BE SKEPTICAL ABOUT ABOUT ITS VOTING SYSTEM
Guest post by Christopher Alexander with LACAG
In August of 2018 Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced that his office had executed a 95$ million contract with Dominion Voting Systems for a new electronic voting system in the state. Two months later, the State Procurement Office rescinded the Dominion contract due to “flaws” in the bidding process. ES&S, the largest US manufacturer of voting equipment in America which was also competing for the contract, had alleged that the standards contained in Ardoin’s bid request were ones that only Dominion’s system could meet. Paula Tregere, Louisiana’s chief procurement officer, ruled that it was in the “best interest of the State to rescind the award made to Dominion Voting Systems.”
Three years later Ardoin tried a second time to consummate a contract for new voting machines. On February 24, 2021, he stood before the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Women (EBRRW) to discuss election issues. Between emphatic declarations about how “great” we are doing on elections in Louisiana, Ardoin made the following public commitments:
“What else are we asking for in the RFP (Request For Proposal)? We want to know who you do business with. We want to know if you’re doing business with a foreign country. We want to know if you have foreign ownership. We want to know who your Board of Directors is. We want to know who owns 10% or more of your company. We want to know who you are, because that’s going to determine, through an independent evaluation committee, who we do business with.”
Ardoin also promised that any RFP he recommends for approval will require any election vendor to provide “the proprietary code to their system. We require that. It is absolute.” (Emphasis mine). Finally, Ardoin committed to subject any prospective Louisiana election system to “expert testing” before recommending approval. (Emphasis mine).
Despite his public commitment to transparency on February 24, a week later, on March 3, 2021 Ardoin was forced to ditch the process a second time due to multiple complaints from competing election technology companies alleging similar irregularities in the bid process as in 2018: Ardoin’s bid was structured in a way that favored Dominion. Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Republican Chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, also weighed in that “history is repeating itself.” It is at least plausible that Ardoin, for the second time in three (3) years, had geared the bid process toward Dominion.
Ardoin has steadfastly denied any impropriety, and insists that the derailment of his efforts to bring new machines to Louisiana is based upon “misinformation and disinformation”, terms usually used by Leftists who are the ones actually engaged in it.
Anybody who follows politics and elections in Louisiana even peripherally knows that Louisiana voters are highly skeptical of Dominion Voting Systems. Louisiana citizens simply do not trust them and have made it clear to Ardoin that they have no confidence in Dominion’s capacity or inclination to secure the integrity of the most fundamental right we have, our vote. Yet on two separate occasions, Ardoin has been accused of structuring lucrative election system contracts in Dominion’s favor. And on both occasions, he has been publicly castigated for it and has been forced to suspend the bid process.
Now, for the third time in 5 years, Ardoin is poised to make yet another recommendation for a new voting system. What can we expect? The fact is that all electronic voting systems are vulnerable to remote manipulation and vote switching, as every reputable cyber security expert in the world has affirmed. But if voting systems in general cause suspicion among Louisiana voters, Dominion is viewed even more unfavorably.
While it is unclear what recommendation Ardoin will ultimately make regarding Louisiana’s new system, if he desires to regain credibility among Louisiana voters, he should at least make good on his public promises to 1) tell Louisiana voters who actually owns, controls, or has a financial interest in Dominion, something the latter is unwilling to fully disclose; (Why?) 2) allow a complete, independent, third party examination of the entire system of any electronic vendor who has submitted a bid for the contract; and 3) disclose whether any electronic vendor has in fact agreed to provide Ardoin the proprietary code for its system.
If the system cannot be hacked, prove it to the Louisiana voters. They have the right to know, with certainty, that their vote is secure. And if Ardoin will not provide that assurance by submitting any prospective system to a comprehensive, independent forensic examination by a neutral expert, Louisiana voters will view it as a major breach of public trust.
If Ardoin does not honor these public promises, we can add three more reasons why he must publicly commit to a secure, handmarked, fully auditable paper ballot system as Louisiana’s primary method of voting, and kick the machines to the curb, with the exception of the disabled who are physically incapable of marking a paper ballot. The only other alternative is Ardoin’s involuntary retirement on election day.
Debbie Kuehne, President of the EBRRW, aptly stated on February 24, 2021 that Louisiana should “never do business with Dominion Voting Systems.” I wonder if Ardoin heard her. Time will tell, and his credibility among Louisiana voters will surely be affected by his choice.
Christopher Alexander is with the Louisiana Citizen Advocacy Group www.lacag.org