He Was the ‘Perfect Villain’ for Voting Conspiracists


Coomer watched the video in shock. He is adamant that he by no means participated in any antifa cellphone name, and he felt disgusted by the accusation that he had performed something to vary the outcomes of the election. The Trump marketing campaign and its allies have launched greater than 60 lawsuits claiming election fraud on this nation, however no court docket has discovered persuasive proof to assist the concept that Coomer, Dominion or anybody else concerned in vote-counting modified the election outcomes. Bipartisan audits of paper ballots in intently contested states reminiscent of Georgia and Arizona confirmed Biden’s victory; and distinguished Republicans, including Attorney General Bill Barr and Trump’s official in charge of election cybersecurity, have reaffirmed the primary details of the election: Over all, the outcomes have been correct, the election course of was safe and no widespread fraud able to altering the end result has been uncovered.

Oltmann is now the topic of a defamation swimsuit introduced by Coomer. It at present names, as co-defendants, 14 events accountable for the dissemination of Oltmann’s claims about that alleged antifa cellphone name, together with Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and the Trump marketing campaign. (Dominion has filed separate defamation fits in opposition to Giuliani, Powell, Fox News and others. Lawyers for Giuliani, Powell and for the Trump marketing campaign declined to remark. Fox known as the Dominion litigation “baseless” and defended its proper to inform “both sides” of the story.) Oltmann’s finest protection can be to offer corroboration of his claims about that cellphone name — he has mentioned there have been as many as 19 individuals on the line — however he has to date declined to take action.

As Coomer watched the video, although, he felt a second sturdy emotion: a robust sense of remorse — as a result of the Facebook posts have been, in truth, genuine. Why, he thought, hadn’t he simply deleted them? Coomer might think about how his phrases would sound to only about any Republican, not to mention somebody already listening to on Fox News that Dominion was switching votes for Biden. He informed me that he believed each phrase of what he mentioned on Facebook, however when colleagues later requested him what he was considering, he was frank: He had screwed up. At a time when well-​funded efforts to sow distrust in the election have been already underway, Coomer had given conspiracy theorists a useful useful resource, a grain of sand they might rework into one thing that had the really feel — the false promise — of proof.

Elections in the United States are impossibly convoluted. Every county — and, in some states, each municipality — runs its personal election, making a patchwork system wherein voters in a single place could have a remarkably totally different voting course of from their neighbors just some miles away. That variation can breed distrust: If voters in a single county imagine their election course of is being administered accurately, totally different strategies in different counties may strike them as suspect.

Local governments additionally depend on personal firms like Dominion and its opponents ES&S and Hart InterCivic, which collectively management 90 p.c of the voting-machine market, to offer machines, software program and technical assist. For Americans who’re suspicious about an election outcome — or wish to create suspicions — these comparatively obscure, personal firms current an apparent goal. In 2004, after George W. Bush narrowly gained the presidency, Democrats focused on possible irregularities in Ohio, whose 20 electoral votes would have given the presidency to John Kerry. The voting machines utilized in Ohio that 12 months got here from Diebold, whose chief government, Walden O’Dell, was a longtime Republican donor. A 12 months earlier than the election, O’Dell wrote a letter to about 100 individuals inviting them to a fund-raiser: “I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year,” he wrote. The language strengthened distrust of Diebold machines amongst some Democrats. O’Dell later mentioned the letter was a “huge mistake,” and Diebold in the end offered its voting-machine enterprise.

Dominion was based in the wake of a unique controversy: the failure of punch-card voting machines — and their notorious hanging chads — in the 2000 election. After Congress funded a invoice to switch these machines, many counties bought direct-recording digital (D.R.E.) voting machines, which eradicated paper ballots altogether. The limits of that strategy grew to become obvious in 2006, when, in Sarasota, Fla., a Congressional race that used D.R.E. machines made by ES&S produced a outcome that struck partisans and impartial observers as unlikely. ES&S stood by the outcomes, however in the absence of a paper poll, doubts and uncertainty lingered.

Dominion was well-positioned at that second. John Poulos, the firm’s chief government and one in every of its founders, began the enterprise in 2003, serving a small circle of shoppers who favored a paper poll. Additionally, Dominion developed a tabulator that saved a digital picture of the paper ballots in order that they may very well be simply audited. (They additionally offered machines that met the wants of visually impaired voters, with audio interfaces and headphones that allowed for independence and anonymity.)



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