A call to action by Look Ahead America Executive Director Matt Braynard in early February may have helped change the minds of the Stark County, Ohio Board of Commissioners (BOC) about the purchase of new voting machines. On March 11, Dominion Voting Systems (DVS) lost the sale of more than 1400 machines, despite the fact that it was the recommended vendor for elections there.
Look Ahead America was formed in response to the 2020 election because "millions of rural and blue-collar patriotic Americans [were feeling] disaffected and disenfranchised from the nation’s corridors of power." The mission of the organization is to "register, educate, and enfranchise these disaffected citizens and ensure that their voices are not just heard but heeded and that the American Dream becomes their dream again." Election integrity is one of their top priorities.
Notably, the BOC resolution language actually states an "approval of the recommendation of the Stark County Board of Elections (BOE) to acquire" the Dominion machines. However, commissioners Regula, Creighton, and Smith voted "NO."
Vote No/Board of Commissioners
The Stark County BOE had been reviewing electronic voting systems since 2018 in response to being awarded over $3 million in state-appropriated funds for updated voting machines. The state would cover $3.27 million, the county would get a trade-in credit on old voting machines of $1.71 million, and the cost to the county taxpayers would be about $1.5 million. The total cost of the equipment is $6.45 million. The BOE evaluated machines from DVS and Elections Systems & Software (ES&S). The new electronic voting system will replace the aging Diebold system.
The review began as a joint process between the BOE and the Board of Commissioners. However, the last communication was a brief mention during a BOE 2019 capital budget hearing. The next communication was a phone call on Dec. 9, 2020, from the Director of the BOE to inform the Board of Commissioners that they had decided to purchase the Dominion machines, recommending the BOC approve the purchase.
However, the commissioners were concerned about the "cloud or public perception or concern" about Dominion's long-term viability as a vendor.
“This board is obliged, in totality of the circumstances to exercise sound discretion on behalf of the citizens of Stark County to conduct the business of the county with due diligence when spending their hard-earned money, without rubber-stamping recommendations that come before it, and to seriously investigate the cost, trustworthiness, long-term viability, and other aspects of any voting system to be purchased to ensure Stark County is obtaining the best value; and whenever there exists a potential cloud,” reads the commissioner’s resolution.
Jeff Matthews, a 30-year fixture in Stark County politics who heads the Stark County BOE, criticized fellow Republicans who are sowing distrust in Dominion's machines. He is also chair of the county's Republican party. He told the Repository that "no one had substantiated any allegations against the voting equipment. We're living in an era of disinformation where many people believe things that are simply not true."
Braynard issued a public call to action on Feb. 3 to reject the $6 million purchase of the Dominion machines. “It is unconscionable for any free election to be run on “black box” voting equipment where both the software and hardware are proprietary, and the code that runs them is not available for public inspection."
On March 11, Look Ahead American announced a big victory. The commissioners had been flooded with calls from concerned citizens."The board of commissioners has received hundreds of communications from concerned citizens," County Commissioner Bill Smith said during a public meeting last month. This response from the public has far exceeded the response any of us have received on any topic to come before our board," according to a report by NPR.
Stark County, a historical bellwether, "decisively sent Barack Obama to the White House twice," according to News5 Cleveland. However, both in 2016 and 2020, voters in the county checked the box resoundingly for Trump. News5 reported that "the county features an even mix between urban, rural, industrial, and residential voting blocs," which may explain the county's penchant for flipping.
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