Secretary of State Mark Martin's
office has extended the deadline for companies to submit proposals to sell the state new voting machines
and has also changed a part of the specifications.
The state Board of Election Commissoners
Wednesday approved some voting machines sold by Election Systems and Software and by Unisyn voting Solutions, with a deadline of Monday for other companies hoping to qualify to sell machines for 75 counties. It could be a $30 million deal.
Vendors had complained that the specifications favored ES and S, which supplied the machines the state currently uses. This became more of an issue because Doug Matayo
, a former Republican legislator who'd been Mark Martin's chief of staff, runs a consulting firm recently hired by ES and S, though he's said not to be working on this specific deal.
I learned from an inquiry to office spokesman Jason Cline that the deadline for the RFP had been extended from 4 p.m. Monday to 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 12. The notice of that change also included a change in the specifications pertaining to voting machines batteries. Originally, devices in which the battery had to be removed for charging didn't qualify. Now that's not a disqualification. I'm told by an election commissioner this specification worked in ES&S' favor. Previously, the requirement said a battery had to recharge automatically after power was restored without having to be removed from the voting machine.
Both changes, said Cline, are intended to make the bid process as "inclusive" as possible.
Cline responded to questions after I called Laura Labay,
who had been chief of public affairs for the office. She resigned immediately by e-mail notice today, Cline said. She did not give a reason. A former TV reporter, she'd increasingly become a voice for Martin, who rarely gives press interviews. She handled many questions in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's article this week
about the voting machine RFP.