Ex-Trump Campaign Staffers File Lawsuit As Ohio County Continues To Grapple With The Big Lie

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Crowds gather outside the U.S. Capitol for the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratific... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Crowds gather outside the U.S. Capitol for the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election.(Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 21, 2021 6:16 p.m.

In Stark County, Ohio, 2020 never ended. 

While President Joe Biden presides and former President Donald Trump has been shunted sideways to hold court at Mar-a-Lago, county officials are still awash in court proceedings stemming from Trump’s big election fraud lie. 

And now, the former President’s old campaign aides are getting involved with a new lawsuit alleging misconduct by the county board of elections. 

The mess started back in December, when the county board of elections voted to spend $1.5 million to purchase new voting machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems. 

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Dominion has become the beleaguered target of peddlers of the election fraud conspiracy theory. The company has fired off a series of defamation lawsuits against such characters in the MAGA-verse as Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who claim falsely that Dominion machines somehow flipped votes to Biden, or erased those for Trump. In March, Dominion sued Fox News for disseminating those conspiracy theories on air for an eye-popping $1.6 billion. The network filed to dismiss the lawsuit this week.

In March, the three-member board of Stark County commissioners — all Republicans — voted against providing the money for the 1,450 new machines after being flooded with calls from local Trump supporters.

“They believe the election was stolen from Trump and we should stand by Trump and the Dominion machines have been known to be hacked,” Commissioner Richard Regula told the Canton Repository. “It’s been the most calls I’ve ever received as a county commissioner. … I had 17 voicemails in one day.”

The commissioners released a resolution accompanying the unanimous vote to block the purchase.

“Whenever there exists a potential cloud (as acknowledged by the Dominion representative at the February 2, 2021 work session) 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,” they wrote. They also questioned the cost of the machines. 

A few weeks later, the county board of elections sued the commissioners in Ohio Supreme Court, pleading for the justices to force the commissioners to cough up the money — and fast. A primary election was coming up in early May. That election came and went, and the Court still didn’t deliver a decision. It still hasn’t, meaning that the county will have to try to make the old machines work for a special election in early August too. By this point, officials are concerned that they won’t have new machines up and running for the November election either. 

“To have the new ICX voting machines in place for the November 2, 2021 General Election, Stark County must sign a contract with Dominion by June 15, 2021, but this deadline will not be met absent an Order, Judgment, and/or Writ from this Court before then directing the County Commissioners to acquire the ICX voting machines,” the lawsuit said, adding: “Although this is the last date possible, allowing additional time is highly advisable to guarantee a smooth 2021 General Election for the Stark County voters and Board of Elections personnel.”

While local officials wait on tenterhooks for the state Supreme Court to decide their fate, the county board of elections has been smacked with a lawsuit by a group founded by, of course, former Trump campaign staffers. 

“The process engaged in by the Board of Elections was not transparent and open to the public,” wrote Look Ahead America Executive Director Matt Braynard in a statement. “Right before voting on the contract with Dominion, the board excluded the public for eighteen minutes from their discussion and deliberations.”

Braynard, who led Trump’s 2016 data operations until he was fired, was nevertheless an eager participant in Trump’s attempts to overthrow the 2020 election. 

The group added a local to the lawsuit, Merry Lynne Rini of Massillon, Ohio, and filed Tuesday in Stark County’s court of common pleas. 

The lawsuit alleges that the board was in violation of the Open Meetings Act because it can only meet in executive session to discuss the purchase of public property “if premature disclosure of information would give an unfair competitive or bargaining advantage to a person whose personal, private interest is adverse to the general public interest.” Since the board didn’t indicate that it was meeting in private to avoid giving that unfair advantage, the lawsuit alleges, any decisions coming out of those executive sessions are invalid — including the board’s vote to approve purchase of the Dominion machines.

They want that vote invalidated, along with a $500 payment for each violation of the Act and attorney fees and court costs.

And so it continues for the embattled board of elections — another lawsuit, another headache, another obstacle to making needed improvements to their voting infrastructure — all because of a fantasy constructed to explain how Trump actually won the 2020 election. 

At least there’s company in this conspiracy theory groundhog day. 

“The Mainstream Media and Radical Left Democrats want to stay as far away as possible from the Presidential Election Fraud, which should be one of the biggest stories of our time,” Trump wrote in a statement over the weekend, following up with a warning about the nonexistent fraud on OAN this week: “It’s being uncovered now.”

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