Voting machine commission gets closer to reality

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Heated debate at the capitol once again over election integrity. That is what Senator Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican, has been met with as her bill to create oversight into voting machine purchases makes its way through the process.

Senate Bill 221 creates a commission of officials and members of the public to work together to decide what kind of voting equipment the Secretary of State should consider. The commission would be made up of politicians, cybersecurity and election experts, as well as members of the public well versed in elections. They also would watch over the testing of different machines to prove they are safe.

While the bill has already cleared the Senate, people came to testify against the idea of voting machines.

“If people don’t have faith in the results of our election our whole democracy crumbles,” Senator Hewitt said. “So it’s why everyone has so much passion around this and why I appreciate so much the constituents that have been involved in this.”

The Secretary of State attempted twice to purchase voting machines while others are pushing for paper ballots. Senator Hewitt said this commission will bring trust in the end decision.

“This bill I think of this like a funnel. So, you start with the bigger family of voting systems first, you work through the state standards that are unique to our state,” Senator Hewitt said. “The federal standards are required in all our RFP’s. Then you’re working in the minutiae, the details, the specifications of the RFP.”

Some against the bill wanted to emphasize their belief that electronic voting machines are not safe. Several people testified with suggestions the state is not being transparent with the elections and more needs to be done to bring the public into the discussion. 

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin assures the machines are safe and the ones he considered would not be hooked up to the internet as some feared. That is not the only option on the table for the commission to consider.

Representatives on the committee said the commission is good for the future of elections in the state and not a chance to dwell on past election outcomes. Representative Royce Duplessis said that Louisiana elections have been safe in the past and just because someone didn’t like the outcome of an election doesn’t mean it wasn’t legitimate.

“This has to be something prospective because there’s been nothing in Louisiana that I’m aware of that we’ve had any issues,” said Rep. Duplessis, a New Orleans Democrat.

An amendment was added to make the senate and house appointees be one Republican and one Democrat. The senator agreed to clearing up some language in the bill before the House floor as well such as where the commission meetings will be held and making a stream available to the public.

The bill heads to the House floor for further debate.

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