By Jan TenBruggencate, Honolulu Adverstiser, October 22, 2004
A state administrative hearings officer yesterday canceled a Texas company's $3.8 million contract to provide electronic voting machines at Hawai'i polling places, but the decision will not disrupt balloting in the Nov. 2 election.
Even though the contract for electronic voting machines was canceled, a state official expressed satisfaction with the machines.
Voters will still be able to choose between a paper ballot and the new Hart InterCivic eSlate electronic voting machine, which is meant to make it easier for disabled voters to cast ballots, but can also be used by others.
The awarding of the contract to Hart was challenged by Election Systems & Software, whose electronic voting system ranked second in the bidding. Sheryl Lee Nagata, State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs hearings officer, concluded that Hart didn't have the required three years of experience with electronic voting systems at the time the contract was issued.
Hart InterCivic director of corporate communications Michelle Shafer, reached last night at the firm's headquarters in Austin, Texas, called the ES&S challenge "an example of sour grapes by a vendor who lost a procurement fair and square."
The contract will remain in effect until after the election, but what happens then is not clear. The administrative ruling could be appealed, and even if it's not, state officials have various options, including issuing a new request for proposals or selecting the second-place bidder in the original bidding.
Safe Vote Hawai'i, a coalition that decries the lack of a paper trail with the Hart voting machines, has urged voters to boycott the machines. But state elections officials say repeated tests convinced them the equipment operates as billed. Also, nearly a quarter of those voting early are using the machines.