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Stark Elections Board Sticks with Dominion After County Rejects Contract

Dominion Voting ballot scanner
Ben Gray
A worker passes a Dominion Voting ballot scanner while setting up a polling location at an elementary school in Gwinnett County, Ga., outside of Atlanta Jan. 4 in advance of the Senate runoff election there.

Updated: 2 p.m., Friday, March 26, 2021

The Stark County Board of Elections is not abandoning plans to buy new Dominion voting machines, despite a move earlier this month by county commissioners to reject the purchase.

Board of elections members voted unanimously Friday morning to buy 1,450 machines from Dominion Voting Systems. The board also voted 3-0, with one abstention, to authorize a lawsuit if county commissioners do not accept the contract.

Stark BOE Chairman Samuel Ferruccio, a Democrat, told ideastream he hoped litigation would not be necessary. But he argued the law was on his side, limiting commissioners’ ability to alter elections board decisions.

“I think that it’s pretty clear at this point. This is our selection, and we need to move forward,” he said. “We want to be in a position to have our new equipment for the general election at this point, so time is of the essence.”

In an email to ideastream, Mark Weaver, an attorney representing county commissioners in the voting machine dispute, said the commissioners were acting on behalf of their constituents. 

“The Board of Commissioners will always act within the law and for the best interests of Stark County residents,” Weaver wrote. “That’s true in every area of county government, including the Board of Elections. The commissioners are elected by the voters to make the final decisions about county policy, and they take that responsibility seriously.”

In February, county commissioners said they had received “hundreds of communications from concerned citizens” about the board’s choice to buy from Dominion, “the one with the cloud, right now, over its head,” as one commissioner put it.

That cloud was kicked up by allies of former President Donald Trump, who floated conspiracy theories about the company in the wake of Trump’s loss to Joe Biden last year. Dominion has now sued many of those allies for defamation.

The company filed its latest lawsuit, a $1.6 billion defamation claim against Fox News, Friday, citing the Stark County contract as an example of the alleged harm Dominion has suffered.

“I think Dominion has every right to look into this situation,” Ferruccio said. “Our board of elections is well aware of conspiracy theories about Dominion that have been promulgated out there, but they have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked.”

Stark County commissioners voted March 10 to reject the Dominion contract. The resolution questioned the cost estimates provided by the board, saying commissioners must “seriously investigate the cost, trustworthiness, long-term viability, and other aspects” of the county’s voting systems.

“Whenever there exists a potential cloud … or public perception or concern regarding a vendor's long-term viability, regardless of the cause or reason, the County must take a vendor's long-term viability into account,” the resolution reads in part.

Last year, 11 Ohio counties used the Dominion ICX machine that the Stark elections board wants to buy, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office. Post-election audits found the vote counts in nine of those counties to be 100 percent accurate, with miniscule errors in the other two counties not blamed on the machines.   
Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.

Nick Castele is a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media.