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Posted: Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 4:34 AM HST

Disputed voting machines go ahead

By 67AM KPUA News

HONOLULU (AP) _ Hawaii has resumed preparations to use new voting machines despite a dispute over whether the right voting machine company was chosen.

The contract with Hart InterCivic for paper eScan and electronic eSlate voting machines will proceed because the September primary election and November general election could be in jeopardy if Hawaii doesn't have a company in place to administer them.

The $43.4 million contract for Hart Intercivic is being challenged by Election Systems & Software, which submitted an $18.1 million bid.

A state administrative hearings officer is expected to rule on the case sometime after mid-July.

Rather than wait for the ruling, State Procurement Officer Aaron Fujioka decided Monday the state had to act or else government money for the contract would have lapsed.

Each day that passes hurts the ability of the Office of Elections to train election officials, prepare ballots and test the new machines, according to Fujioka.

"Election preparations have resumed," said Kevin Cronin, the chief elections officer. "That means Hart and the Office of Elections staff are working closely to prepare for the elections, primarily now conducting precinct training sessions."

The contract was automatically put on hold when Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software challenged it, claiming Texas-based Hart's proposal was unreasonably high.

Fujioka said the delay "places at great risk the voters' right to an efficient and effective statewide election." He found that there is a substantial state interest in lifting the stay on the contract.

"The delay also resulted in lost training time for officials, voting machine testing and ballot preparations, leading to poor and inadequate precinct training that compromises the voter education and election process," Fujioka said.

(Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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