STARK COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) –The conservative nonprofit ‘Look Ahead America’ is suing the Stark County Board of Elections over a decision to purchase 14-hundred new voting machines to replace its aging inventory.
The Stark County Board of Elections in December voted to move forward with a contract to purchase the Dominion ICX direct recording electronic voting machine with the help of $3.2 million dollars in state funds.
The machines would replace Diebold voting machines that have been in use in Stark County since the early 2000’s which the board of elections say no longer hold a charge, making it difficult to conduct an election if there was a power outage and for which replacement parts are getting virtually impossible to find.
The aging inventory is actually second hand after all of the counties voting machines were damaged in a flood when the roof of their warehouse collapsed during an April 2013 storm.
“These are actually the fleet that were used in Cuyahoga County in the early 2000s as well and we purchased these from Dominion to then use this equipment all the way through until now. It’s still the same technology from 2005. It’s just used by a previous county, and we purchased it in 2013 but it was the same 2005 technology still the same problems that we had with the previous fleet.” said Board of Elections Administrative Assistant Travis Secrest.
Look Ahead America, however, has filed suit in Stark County Superior Court claiming the decision to replace them was in violation of Ohio’s Sunshine Law.
“They went into a closed-door meeting violating Ohio’s open meeting law to discuss this contract and move forward with it and we think that’s illegal, and our lawsuit seeks to reverse that decision,” said Look Ahead America’s Executive Director Matt Braynard, who identifies himself on his Twitter account as a former data/strategist director for Donald J. Trump during the 2016 election.
“And it’s disturbing to me that they were so eager to buy this equipment that they would break the law to do it that they didn’t want to have their meetings open to public scrutiny and that’s a clear violation of Ohio open meeting laws and we are going to hold them accountable for it,” added Braynard.
The Stark County Board of Elections on Monday would not comment on the lawsuit saying they have not yet been served.
They are already suing Stark County Commissioners who voted against the purchase.
The Board of Elections believes the county overstepped its authority in making that decision.
In court documents board members said they made their decision fully aware of accusations that have been levied against Dominion since the November election by those who believe the election was rigged.
Dominion has since assertively maintained the integrity of their machines,
On May 24th Dominion updated a statement released by the company following the November General Election which states:
“Dominion Voting Systems has been the target of election disinformation seeking to undermine confidence in the integrity of the 2020 election. Here are the facts:
Dominion is a private American company that provides voting systems in 28 states, including “red” and “blue” jurisdictions. Since its founding in 2003, Dominion has supported tens of thousands of elections in non-partisan fashion.
All Dominion systems are capable of producing paper records and are 100% auditable, with testing, reviews, audits, and recounts subject to oversight and verification by all political parties.
All 2020 election audits and recounts using Dominion technology have validated the accuracy and reliability of results, confirming the integrity of election outcomes.
Baseless claims about the integrity of the system or the accuracy of the results have been dismissed by election authorities, subject matter experts and third-party fact-checkers.
“Malicious and misleading false claims about Dominion have resulted in dangerous levels of threats and harassment against the company and its employees, as well as election officials.”
While the lawsuit from Look Ahead America accuses the board of violating the sunshine law Braynard has been among the nation’s leading opponents of so-called ‘black box’ voting machines like Dominion’s which use proprietary software and firmware.
Braynard cites a Princeton University study that concluded the proprietary election machines can be hacked and that it can be done in such a way as no one even realized it.
“It would be very easy for them (Dominion) to prove their claim by allowing the public, government officials to see their software to examine their hardware. The truth is they are not going to allow anybody to do that. In fact in the contract they sign with the counties and the states they strictly prohibit them from taking a screw driver to the machine and opening it up to see what’s inside or trying to look at the software,” Braynard told Fox 8 on Monday.
“Now the reason they do this is because if it was open source if they did make it available to see how ballots are counted and adjudicated, they would no longer have an exclusive right to service those machines for them. This is about money for us. This is about election integrity,” he added.
The problem with ‘open-source’ voting machines, according to Secrest is that there are only five companies that build voting machines that are certified in the state of Ohio and none of them build ‘open-source’ voting machines.
The Board of Elections claims it has been planning for replacements for several years and needs to take advantage of the state money while it is available.
According to court documents that brings the county’s portion of the bill to around $1.4 million, which is far below the $7 million that was projected for the machines and the service contracts.
In court documents the Board of Elections cites $4 million as the projected maintenance cost of the existing machines over the next several years.
“This is their opportunity to lead not just the state of Ohio but the entire nation in setting the example that they are going to insist that when the government purchases this voting equipment the government has the right and the people have the right to examine every line of code that tabulates those votes,” said Braynard, who claims his objection to the so-called ‘black box’ machines is not partisan.
“This doesn’t have to be a partisan issue you don’t have to believe the machines stole the last election. Maybe you believe they did. Maybe you believe they didn’t. But the principle of the government of the people having complete access to the hardware and software that tabulates the elections is critical,” said Braynard.
“We are not opposed to companies selling voting equipment. We invite every company that sells voting equipment that chooses to. We are just insisting that it be open source hardware and software,” he added.
“There are strict requirements as to what can be used in elections which is a very important aspect as well,” said Secrest.
The Stark County Board of Elections would like to have the new machines in time for the November general election.
To do that the contract would have to be signed this summer.