State snagged on elections protest
An objection to the bidding process halts planning and has lawmakers nervous
Planning has been halted because of a protest by a company that did not win the bid for new equipment to run elections this fall in Hawaii.
The state Office of Elections awarded the contract to Austin, Texas-based Hart Intercivic Inc., which was given a contract worth either $43 million or $53 million, depending on whether the state picked it for either 10 or 11 years.
The losing firm, Election Systems & Software, had bid $18 million and complained that the state did not pay enough attention to the cost when it awarded the bid.
ES&S protested to the state Procurement Office, which ruled on March 24 that the Elections Office had to "perform an analysis of Hart's bid to determine whether the price was reasonable."
"The Procurement Office also ordered the Office of Elections not to work with Hart to prepare for September's primary election.
The Elections Office filed a request to lift the stay, Kevin Cronin, state election officer, said yesterday after a hearing on House Resolution 267, which addresses the issue.
Cronin told lawmakers that his office is "beyond the 11th hour by which it needs to begin election preparations for setting up the counting centers on each island, for determining communications needs, for determining ballot parameters."
""We should have started work a long time ago," Cronin added after the hearing, saying he hoped to begin work on Monday.
David Minkin, an attorney for Hart, said some equipment for the election has already arrived in Honolulu, and more is expected.
"Mr. Chairman, just during this meeting I received a letter from Texas saying we have to start immediately to build the equipment," Minkin said.
Rep. Michael Magaoay (D, Schofield-Kahuku), chairman of the Legislative Management Committee, said a decision should be reached soon.
"This is very important. If you can't deliver and we have an election, the press is going to have a field day on us guys," Magaoay warned.
Cronin said he hoped to find out by Monday whether the Procurement Office would allow him to start planning for the election while the appeal continues.
Cronin defended the contract with Hart, saying it was the only bidder that offered to update the leased computer equipment during the life of the contract.