Ohio County Ordered To Purchase Disputed Voting Machines

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme County on Monday sided with a county elections board in a dispute over the purchase of voting machines tied to unfounded allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

At issue before the high court was a rift between the bipartisan elections board in Stark County and that northeastern county’s GOP-dominated board of commissioners, involving Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems machines.

Under a 2018 law approved by Ohio lawmakers, “the commissioners must acquire the voting machines selected by the elections board,” the Supreme Court said in a 6-1 ruling.

Although the current selection process doesn't allow commissioners to scrutinize the election's board choice of voting machines, that's a matter for state lawmakers, not the court, the justices said.

Stark County commissioners respect the court's ruling and will comply with it, said their attorney, Mark Weaver. He added that commissioners "remain disappointed that taxpayers were not given, and now may never receive, the information necessary to discern whether this proposed purchase is the best value and most effective.”

Messages were left for for the elections board and for Dominion Voting Systems. Elections board officials argued that without an order from the high court forcing the purchase, the machines wouldn't be available in time for the November election

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.

In December, the Stark County 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.

The elections board sued in the state Supreme Court last month to force the county to follow state law and buy the machines based on the elections board recommendation.

The elections board argued the $1.5 million purchase price is more than competitive and well below the initial estimated cost of $6.4 million.

The commissioners argued that any delay was on the elections board, saying it has declined to provide information requested by the commissioners.

Among the information requested by commissioners was 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.

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.

Justice Sharon Kennedy dissented in Monday's ruling, arguing that state law doesn't require the commissioners to buy the machines selected by the elections board.