Louisiana Senate passes voting machines bill

Would establish commission to oversee purchases of voting systems

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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