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The state Board of Election Commissioners on Wednesday approved three pieces of voting equipment apiece for Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software and California-based Unisyn Voting Solutions to make them eligible to be purchased by Secretary of State Mark Martin for the state's 75 counties.

With Board Chairman A.J. Kelly abstaining, the seven-member board decided that the voting equipment meets the requirements of state law.

The equipment consists of two ballot scanners and an electronic marking device used in combination with the scanners "as a combo voting machine," for each company, according to board records.

These pieces of equipment would allow voters to cast paper ballots or mark their votes on electronic screens.

The board also decided another piece of voting equipment from Election Systems & Software meets all of these requirements except for being certified by a national testing laboratory, which an Election Systems & Software official said he expects to be completed in late August. The board will consider approving the equipment once it gets certified.

The deadline for companies to submit proposals to the Republican secretary of state for a statewide integrated voting system is Monday at 4 p.m. The maximum expenditure for the project would be $30 million, according to the secretary of state's request for proposal.

After the board's meeting, the sales director of Unisyn Voting Solutions, Barry Herron, said his company plans to submit a proposal to the secretary of state's office -- although he said last week that's Martin's request for proposals favors Election Systems & Software, which has disputed that.

"We are responding the best we can with our experience, ability and knowledge and service-oriented solution," Herron said in an interview. He said he hopes his company gets a fair shot at the contract.

In another development, Election Systems & Software spokesman Kathy Rogers said this week that the company has retained Legacy Consulting "for consulting purposes related to advising ESS on strategic growth and planning." The secretary of state's former chief deputy, Doug Matayo, is a senior partner in Legacy Consulting, according to its website.

Matayo, a former Republican state representative from Springdale, could not be reached for comment by telephone or email Tuesday or Wednesday.

Martin said that Matayo hasn't contacted any of his employees regarding the secretary of state office's plans to purchase new voting equipment and that Matayo is working for Election Systems & Software in other states.

"In the role of chief deputy secretary of state, Doug Matayo discussed voting equipment with our executive team, in accordance with the role of the secretary of state to execute elections," Martin spokesman Laura Labay said in a written statement. "Since his departure, Mr. Matayo has not discussed plans to purchase voting equipment from any specific vendor with anyone in the Secretary of State's office."

Labay said she "found no documents responsive" to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's request for "any correspondence between Matayo and any SOS employees regarding getting new voting equipment for the state since he has left the office."

Herron said Wednesday that he's "not pleased" to hear that a firm employing Matayo is working as a consultant for Election Systems & Software.

Unisyn Voting Solutions is a client of the Mullenix & Associates lobbying firm, according to the firm's lobbyist registration. Julie Mullenix of Mullenix & Associates submitted several questions to the secretary of state's office about its request for proposals, according to the office's records.

Two other voting machine companies will ask the state Board of Election Commissioners to approve their voting equipment next week, said board Director Justin Clay.

They are Hart-Intercivic of Austin, Texas, and Dominion Voting Systems of Toronto, he said.

Steven Sockwell, vice president of marketing for Hart-Intercivic, said in a written statement: "Hart is in the process of deciding whether we will respond to the State of Arkansas RFP.

"Because the requirements in this RFP seem to be written for a very specific solution, rather than an open competition of modern solutions from multiple providers, this decision is more complicated than usual."

Labay said the request for proposal isn't drafted to favor Election Systems & Software.

"We just want to see what is each vendors solution to what we are asking for in the state," she said in written statement. "I don't believe any vendor will meet everything we have asked for in the RFP, but that is what this process is about, finding the best solution. An RFP is like a Christmas list. You are asking for everything in the wish book, doesn't mean you will get it and you can be really happy with only the things you get."

Charlie Daniels, a Byrant Democrat, purchased voting equipment through Election Systems & Software for about $15 million in 2005 when he was secretary of state and also gave the company a $4.9 million contract to provide the state's voter registration system.

Labay said the office re-signed a contract with Election Systems & Software for the voter registration system a few years ago.

The secretary of state's office is considering replacing the voting equipment in 75 Arkansas counties "with a sole-source integrated voting system allowing for automation and full integration between polling place equipment and voter registration system(s)," according to a copy of the request for proposal released by Martin's office.

"If the project succeeds, the vendor shall be responsible for complete replacement, installation, training, testing and maintenance, including bridge maintenance for existing systems, no later than March 1, 2016," the request for proposal states.

Metro on 04/30/2015

Print Headline: Voting equipment OK'd for state bid

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