Thursday, October 8, 2020

Bid-Rigging for County Election Machinery?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2020 at 3:52 PM

click to enlarge bid-rigging.jpg
Appearing to confirm earlier reports from Shelby County Election Commissioner Bennie Smith that manufacturers’ bids to supply new voting machinery for the county were adjusted locally to favor the ES&S Company, officials of Hart Intercivic, one of the bidders, charged that unnecessary costs were added to their company’s bid after it was received by the office of County Election Administrator Linda Phillips.

The charge of post-submission bid-rigging was made in a letter to Shelby County officials dated Monday, October 5th, and signed by Hart president/CEO Julie Mathis and her regional sales director Bob Heisner. Hart was, along with ES&S and Dominion Voting Systems, one of the three bidders for the Shelby County contract.

A bid from ES&S to supply new election scanning machinery at a cost of $5,815,405 was approved by the Election Commission last month and submitted on Monday, September 28th, to the county commission, which would be responsible for approving the purchases.

Amid serious skepticism among county commissioners, who have several times expressed a preference for hand-marked voting devices rather than the ballot-marking devices marketed by ES&S, the matter was deferred until the next regular meeting of the county commission on this coming Monday, October 12th.

Indications are that the ES&S bid might be rejected and that the county commission could instead adopt a stopgap measure to rent additional scanning machines so as to handle an anticipated increase in mail-in ballots for the November election.

The letter from Hart complained of “major discrepancies in the vendor pricing comparisons that were presented to the Election Commission” and listed $2.7 million of unsubmitted and unnecessary costs that were added on to its bid to inflate the apparent expense of its equipment. The letter contends also that Hart’s estimates for hand-marked paper-ballot devices per se were not even scored.

(Bidders had been asked to supply cost estimates for both ballot-marking devices and hand-marked paper-ballot devices.)

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