Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) said on December 8 that it has received eight bids in its tender to purchase 9600 voting machines, worth 36 million leva, or about 18.4 million euro.
Six companies and two individuals submitted offers before the deadline expired on December 7. The initial deadline was November 30, but it was extended by one week after CEC amended the initial terms to clarify the information security standards that the bidders must operate under.
The target date for the election watchdog to announce qualifying bidders has also been moved and is now December 15.
In addition to the physical delivery, the contract includes the software used by the voting machines and its source code, so that it can be “modified for all types of elections envisioned in the Electoral Code, without the supplier’s input,” the CEC said earlier, when it announced the tender.
Also included in the tender is servicing the voting machines for the parliamentary elections, due in spring 2021, and training elections officials in the use of the machines.
Bulgaria’s rollout of machine voting has been plagued by repeated delays – after the CEC was unable to secure 13 000 machines ahead of the 2017 parliamentary elections, the National Assembly legislated that the number of voting machines used would increase with each election.
About 3000 machines were used in the 2019 European Parliament election, but an Electoral Code provision that called for 6000 machines to be deployed in the local elections later that year was scrapped, on the grounds that it would complicate the electoral process.
Full implementation of machine voting was envisioned for the 2021 parliamentary elections, but the recent changes to the Electoral Code mandate that voters be given the choice whether to use the machines or paper ballots. The amendments drew sharp criticism from President Roumen Radev, but his veto was overturned by MPs.
(Voting machine used in May 2019 European Parliament elections in Bulgaria. Screengrab from Bulgarian National Television.)