Who’s in Charge: Secretary of State: R. Kyle Ardoin

“Geaux vote,” the Bayou State’s website urges its citizens. But that might not be considered a secure practice, officials have said, until the 2020 election when the millions of dollars being poured into Louisiana’s voting systems will have an effect.

Although Louisiana was not one of the states the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said was hacked during the 2016 election, a report by Democrats on the U.S. House Administration Committee identified named it and four other states as the five lowest ranked states when it comes to election security because their current voting machines are paperless, making it impossible to audit election results. Interim Secretary of State R. Kyle Ardoin has publicly noted after a shift in 2005 to paperless machines – to improve election security – Louisiana is now turning back to paper for the same reason.

Louisiana will use the nearly $5.9 million it got from $380 million in funds allotted by Congress to replace its 10,000 or so direct-recording electronic machines (DREs). Ardoin had estimated the state needs $60 million to replace all of the machines.  The winning bid by Dominion Voting Systems put a $95 million price tag on the project with machines costing $68 million and maintenance (which would have come from the Secretary of State’s budget) making up the remaining $27 million. But the bidding process has been mired in controversy and politics – with Dominion’s challenger, Election Systems and Software, formally claiming it was rigged.

The company held the contract from August to early October when Governor John Bel Edwards yanked it.  “I hereby determine that it is in the best interest of the state to rescind the award made to Dominion Voting Systems,” Louisiana’s chief procurement officer Paula Tregre said in a statement at the time, going on to tell the AP that, “Without these certification standards, no adequate evaluation of the proposed voting systems could be made.”

But Ardoin called the decision purely political. “This decision by Gov. Edwards’ administration is an embarrassment and reeks of old-school Louisiana politics. The governor sided with his political buddies over election security,” he said in a statement. “It’s executive overreach and why the secretary of state is independently elected.”

Regardless of motivation, the nixed contract is a setback in the timeline of Louisiana’s voting machine revamp.