GOP mistrust of voting machines lingers as Dominion and Fox News head into legal battle

(CNN) First, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors in rural Northern California It voted to cancel its contract with Dominion Voting Systems, citing public distrust of the company’s machines.

Later, supervisors agreed to count votes in future elections after MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell — one of the 2020 recusants — received a written assurance that he would provide the district with “financial and legal” resources. It faced “pushback” on the move.

This is the decision of the majority of supervisors A deeply conservative district Ending Dominion’s contract — years before its expiration date and over the objection of the district’s top election official — illustrates how attacks against the company reverberate more than two years after the 2020 election. Dominion is preparing to face off against Fox News in the coming days in a Delaware court High-profile $1.6 billion defamation case. Dominion claims the network “recklessly ignored the truth” by invoking conspiracies advanced by former President Donald Trump and his allies about its voting patterns. Fox News has denied any wrongdoing.

Dominion is also suing Lindell and Trump-aligned lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, along with two smaller right-wing networks, Newsmax and One America News Network. Each case offers detailed rebuttals of the conspiracy theories that have grown in pockets of the country and in conservative media circles since Trump and his allies began making claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.

Recent actions in Shasta County “demonstrate the enduring power of these lies,” said Larry Norton, senior director of the Elections and Government Program at the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school.

“It has real-life consequences for the way we’re going to conduct our elections this year and next year,” he said.

Officials at Dominion called Shasta’s action “another example of how lies about Dominion have damaged our company,” but declined to comment further on the county’s action.

Shasta supervisors who voted to end the contract said they acted because people had lost faith in Dominion Machinery. “Voter trust is priceless In a statement explaining their decision.

In the Fox case, Dominion argued that it was seeking $1.6 billion in damages for voiding such contracts and lost business opportunities. Fox News has aggressively pushed back against that number, saying Dominion manipulated underlying data to create a highly inflated, attention-grabbing number.

Started in Toronto basement

Dominion, which started nearly two decades ago in the Toronto home of its co-founder and CEO John Poulos, has become one of the largest suppliers of voting machines and software in the United States.

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In 2020, Dominion voting systems were active in 28 states — including jurisdictions in key presidential battleground states that Democrat Joe Biden flipped on his way to winning the White House, such as Georgia, Michigan and Arizona.

Poulos, who has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, said he started the company in part to help people with disabilities vote without assistance and to improve how paper ballots are marked and counted. Chad’s loss in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. (A The federal law was enacted in 2002 changed some voting practices in federal elections and required jurisdictions to provide at least one accessible voting system for people with disabilities at each polling place, fostering the market for the new devices.)

Staple Street Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, purchased As of 2018 most of Dominion and its US headquarters are in Denver. According to court filings in the Fox case, Staple Street Capital paid about $38.3 million to buy a roughly 75% stake in Dominion.

Within days of the 2020 general election, Trump and his top surrogates, including Powell and Giuliani, began spreading baseless conspiracy theories about Dominion — including claims that its machines shifted votes from Trump to Biden, a tool of Democratic political figures. Or it was a tool of communist regimes in Latin America.

Hours after news outlets predicted a Biden victory on November 7, 2020, some Dominion lies appear to have emerged from a Minnesota woman who emailed Powell, then-Fox anchor Lou Dobbs and GOP legal activist Tom Fitton. The frontman, who led a multi-state plan to steal the election, nevertheless said his theories came “out of thin air” that spoke to him and admitted they were “pretty wacky doodles,” according to court filings.

In the following days, Powell and Giuliani parroted several unsubstantiated claims about Dominion on Dobbs’ show on Fox Business Channel and other Fox programs. Many of those appearances are at the center of Dominion’s defamation suit against Fox.

For its part, Fox denies defaming Dominion or anyone else, and says its on-air personalities include newsworthy allegations of election irregularities from public figures.

In late 2020, Poulos became a more public face as he endorsed the company.

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“The Dominion is not, never has been, a front for the Communists,” he told a Michigan Senate oversight committee in December of that year, fueling a series of fast-spreading conspiracy theories. “Dominion has no ties to the Pelosi family, the Feinstein family, the Clinton family or George Soros.”

“The notions that our company was launched in Venezuela with Cuban money with the intention of stealing elections are outlandish and completely false,” he added. “My company started in my basement, it happened in Toronto, and our sole purpose was to help blind people vote on paper ballots.”

(The GOP-led Senate Oversight Committee Finally came to an end (There was “no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud” in the state’s 2020 election, which Biden won by nearly 3 percentage points.)

A Dominion spokeswoman declined to make Poulos available for a CNN interview, citing an upcoming trial in Wilmington, Delaware. It will begin April 17, and jury selection is scheduled to begin Thursday — barring a last-minute settlement, which is always possible.

But Poulos has spoken publicly about the cost to himself, his family and his staff. He said everyone was facing threats.

A “60 Minutes” interview Last October, Poulos said the threats were so widespread that her children were still prevented from retrieving packages from the front door “until we verified that it was indeed from a trusted sender.”

He added that it was “important for all the families affected” that those spreading false information about the company admit they were wrong.

In court filings last week, Fox asked a judge to bar Dominion from bringing up similar death threats at trial. The network called the threats “horrendous and completely inexcusable” but argued they would “inflame the jury’s sympathy” and distract from the legal questions at hand.

Dominion v. Goliath

Dominion has already sued the media heavyweight for defamation.

The pre-trial records have been seen Publication of incriminating texts and emails The show shows that Fox News executives, hosts and producers privately doubted the network’s publicly broadcast claims about Dominion.

In an eye-opening message released as part of the lawsuit, Fox News star Tucker Carlson said he hated Trump “with a passion” and that Trump’s presidency was a failure. In a November 2020 text exchange, Carlson said, “We’re all pretending there’s a lot to show for it because admitting what a disaster it is is so hard to digest. But come on. Not really upside for Trump.”

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More revelations are likely to come. Last week, a Delaware judge ruled that Dominion could compel Fox Corp. executives Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch to testify in person at the hearing.

Fox’s attorneys argue that the network’s coverage ignores other reasons the company may face additional scrutiny from its customers if there is any potential damage to Dominion’s business. Fox highlighted other issues, such as internal criticism from Dominion employees, including one who wrote, “Our products suck.”

Doubts in a conservative district

Shasta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Patrick Jones cited the claims during a public meeting earlier this year in Redding, California — nearly 3,000 miles from the Delaware courtroom where the Dominion and Fox News legal battles have taken place. Fox News’ legal filings to argue that Dominion’s machines are “full of bugs.” Email sent in October 2020 by Dominion’s director of product strategy and security.

He joined two other members of the five-member panel in voting to scrap the deal. “People don’t trust electronic machines,” Jones said. “We don’t trust them, we need to restore trust.”

Jones declined an interview request this week, saying CNN “doesn’t tell the truth.” Another Shasta supervisor, Kevin Cry — who says he received financial support from Lindell and supported ending the Dominion contract — did not respond to a CNN inquiry.

Now, the district is home to about 111,000 people out of the state’s nearly 22 million Registered voters, is trying to come up with a new way of conducting its elections ahead of the local elections in November. Last week, the board approved spending $950,000 with another vendor to purchase equipment and software needed to provide accessible voting for residents with disabilities and help with planned hand counts.

Kathy Darling Allen, the county’s elected clerk and a Democrat, opposed ending Dominion’s $262,000-a-year contract to lease the machines. He estimates that it would cost $1.6 million to hire more than 1,200 temporary workers to manually count all the votes in the presidential election. She and state officials have warned that manual calculations can be fraught with high error rates.

“It feels like an answer to a problem,” Darling Allen told CNN. “We’ve never had a problem with elections in Shasta County, and we’re still here.”

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