Bid protest leaves state without election system
The state Office of Elections lost an appeal to the state Procurement Office that would have cleared the way to start up a new voting system for the fall elections.
The chief of elections, Kevin Cronin, was told yesterday that his office would not be exempted from state procurement laws. But he said he would still be able to hold the elections this fall.
Cronin had hoped to have Hart InterCivic Inc. of Austin, Texas, start work on a $8.9 million contract to provide the computers, software and other equipment to run the primary and general elections this fall.
Hart had already won a $43 million contract with the state to run the elections for the next decade. But the losing firm, Election Systems & Software, which had bid $18 million, 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 in March that the Elections Office had to "perform an analysis of Hart's bid to determine whether the price was reasonable."
Elections officials went back to the Procurement Office to ask that Hart be given a contract just for this election.
"Because of the pending protest, the state of Hawaii does not have a voting system to conduct the Sept. 20 primary and the Nov. 4 general election in place," Cronin said in his plea for an exemption.
Cronin said he was worried that the analysis of the Hart and ES&S bids might not be done until June. But procurement officer Aaron Fujioka said Hart, ES&S and the Office of Elections all agreed to do a cost analysis and that the state had agreed to rescind the award.
"Any approval of this exemption at this time would be an act of bad faith by allowing the Office of Elections to circumvent the signed agreement," Fujioka said in rejecting the appeal.
Cronin says he is doing his best to prepare for the elections. "We are engaged in preparations for the fall election. There are funds available with the state and counties and I anticipate that the request for approval for payment to Hart will be issued in the near future," Cronin said.
City Clerk Denise De Costa, who is in charge of elections for Honolulu, said the city has started to send out the cards notifying voters of their polling places, but that she is concerned that if a decision is not reached soon election officials will have trouble planning. "This all makes a difference because the different machines have different formatting requirements. There are just a whole bunch of activities waiting for a decision," she said.