COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A dispute over the purchase of voting machines tied to unfounded allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election has reached the Ohio Supreme Court.
At issue before the high court is a feud over the purchase of Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems machines between the bipartisan elections board in Stark County and that northeastern county’s GOP-dominated board of commissioners.
Dominion machines became a flashpoint during the election because of unfounded allegations that the company changed votes through algorithms in its voting machines that had been created in Venezuela to rig elections for the late dictator Hugo Chavez.
Dominion has pushed back against these allegations, including in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed last month against Fox News, arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed that the voting company rigged the 2020 election in an effort to boost faltering ratings.
Because of such claims promoted by on-air Fox personalities, the company is now widely targeted by conservatives who falsely believe it manufactured former President Donald Trump’s defeat, the lawsuit said.
This conspiracy theory even reached Stark County, the elections board alleged in its complaint to the Ohio Supreme Court last month.
In December, the board voted to move ahead with a $1.5 million purchase of new machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems. The board says it reviewed and rejected unfounded allegations that the company’s machines altered the results of the presidential election. Members of the elections board argued it followed state law in voting to adopt the Dominion machines.
The county commissioners - all Republicans - delayed the purchase, saying more information was needed. That decision followed dozens of complaints from local supporters of Trump, who argued without evidence that Dominion machines helped sway the election, The Repository reported.
There was no known widespread fraud in the 2020 election, a fact that a range of election officials across the country - and even Trump’s attorney general, William Barr - have confirmed.
A Dominion spokeswoman declined to comment on the Ohio case.
The elections board sued in the state Supreme Court earlier this month to force the county to follow state law and buy the machines based on the elections board recommendation. Without such action, the board says, the machines won’t be available in time for the general election in November.
In addition, without new voting machines, “the Board of Elections will have to continue to use its old machines that break down more often and are becoming increasingly expensive to fix as replacement parts are harder to obtain; this will cost more of the Stark County taxpayers’ dollars,” Don McTigue, a lawyer representing the elections board, argued in an April 2 court filing.
He also argued the $1.5 million purchase price is more than competitive and well below the initial estimated cost of $6.4 million. An order from the court is needed to meet a June deadline from Dominion to provide the new machines by November, the elections board argues.
The court has ordered all arguments to be filed by the middle of next month.
The commissioners argue that any delay is on the elections board, saying it has declined to provide information requested by the commissioners.
Among the information requested by commissioners is a list of the top three options, including vendor and equipment type, that the elections board considered, along with a summary the pros and cons for each one.
The elections’ board proposal “contained material misrepresentations of fact and lacked the kind of detailed information a prudent policy maker would need to take action,” Mark Weaver, an attorney representing the county commissioners, argued in an April 9 filing.
“The Stark County Commissioners understand and respect the desire to obtain high quality voting equipment for the voters of Stark County to use in the years to come,” Weaver added. “Rushing things and hiding comparative information from the voters themselves do not advance that laudable goal.”
The elections board countered that commissioners have “misunderstood” their role in the process and they don’t have the ability to change the board’s decision to adopt the Dominion voting system.
In its lawsuit, Dominion argues that Fox News, which amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes, “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.”
New York-based Fox News says it stands by its journalism and will defend itself against the claims.
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