Louisiana Senate passes voting machines bill

Would establish commission to oversee purchases of voting systems

By: - April 29, 2021 7:00 am

An Election Day line at Eleanor McMain Secondary School in New Orleans Nov. 3, 2020. (Photo by Jarvis DeBerry)

The Louisiana Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would create a new voting commission to oversee the Louisiana secretary of state’s purchases of voting machines.

Senate Bill 221, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, would establish the Voting System Commission within the Louisiana Department of State “for the purpose of independently reviewing any proposals received by the secretary of state” for the sale of voting machines.

The commission, comprised of government officials who would serve without compensation, would analyze any available voting systems and select up to three options for discussion during public hearings. The commission would then select one system and direct the secretary of state to request a bid from the system’s vendor.

The bill would also create a separate Voting System Proposal Evaluation Committee to independently review the vendors that have submitted bids. The committee would be comprised of a faculty member from a Louisiana university, a member of the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association, a member of the Louisiana Registrar of Voters Association, an expert on voting systems and a representative from the secretary of state’s office.

Hewitt created the bill, she said, to insert transparency into the process of selecting voting machine vendors after a group of residents, without any evidence to support it,  complained of widespread election fraud. Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has insisted there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election in Louisiana. 

Some of those baseless fraud claims excoriate Dominion, a voting machine vendor that some Donald Trump partisans have accused of robbing Trump of a second term. Louisiana Republicans forced Ardoin, also a Republican, to cancel open bidding for new voting machines because they said the bid language was too favorable to Dominion. 

Some Louisiana residents insisting there was fraud  attended an April 20 meeting of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee last week, and many told Hewitt they would only trust a paper ballot voting system. 

Although Hewitt’s bill wouldn’t mandate that Louisiana use a paper ballot voting system, it would give Louisiana residents representation on the Voting System Proposal Evaluation Committee.

SB221 now advances to the House for consideration.

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Much of his journalism has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and coverage of municipal and state government. He has received recognitions including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus and a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his two sons and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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