Louisiana Republicans need to admit their complaint about Dominion voting machines is based on a big lie | Jarvis DeBerry

March 26, 2021 8:27 am
Election Plan Kyle Ardoin

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, shown here on Aug. 20, 2020, was forced by his fellow Louisiana Republicans to end the open bidding process for the state’s voting machines. (Photo by Wes Muller/LA Illuminator).

“[S]ince (Sidney) Powell began her media blitz, state legislators in various states in which Dominion has contracts—including Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—have stated their intent to review and reassess those contracts.”  — U.S. Dominion, Inc. v. Powell, filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, 1/8/2021

In the more than two months since the voting machine vendor Dominion sued Trump attorney and chief propagandist Sidney Powell for defamation, Louisiana Republicans who fell for the Trump team’s propaganda have gone from asking questions about Dominion to forcing the Republican secretary of state to cancel open bidding for new voting machines. Their obvious concern was that Dominion, which has been subjected to nonsense allegations that it picked the winner in November’s presidential election, would win a new contract from Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office expected to be worth about $100 million. 

Also since Dominion filed its $1.3 billion suit against Powell, she has argued that she couldn’t possibly have defamed Dominion, in part because “no reasonable person would conclude that” her outlandish claims about Dominion “were truly statements of fact.”

One wonders how Louisiana Republicans parroting Powell’s Dominion lie feel now that she has essentially labeled them dupes.

In a Monday filing in federal court, Powell argues that her words qualify as “political speech,” a universe in which what’s true and false don’t matter. And she suggests that we who insist otherwise are the dishonest ones. For example, are we so dumb to believe that she was holding herself to a standard to tell the truth as she was blasting Dominion from Republican Party headquarters? 

“Obviously, any press conference originating from the Republican National Committee is political to its core,” Powell argues in Monday’s brief.  (The word “Duh” is implied.”)

But as is typical for a legal brief, Powell throws out multiple arguments in the hope that at least one of them can get her off a $1,300,000,000 hook. Dominion has to prove she “entertained serious doubts as to the truth” of what she was saying about the company, but it can’t, she says, because, in fact, “she believed the allegations then and she believes them now.”

She believes that Dominion — which was founded in Ontario, Canada — was actually created in Venezuela to rig elections for the now deceased dictator Hugo Chavez? She believes that Dominion paid off Georgia officials to get a no-bid contract — even though there’s a paper trail showing that Dominion’s was the lowest bid of three vendors? Powell has also pushed QAnon nonsense, so what she says she believes is meaningless. It’s most likely the case that the former federal prosecutor was cynically pushing lies for money and attention, but she’s obligated to say she believed what she said.

Even so, her acknowledgement that no reasonable person would take her statements as fact leaves Louisiana’s Republican lawmakers looking particularly foolish.

And their fight against Dominion, Ardoin says, has only served to guarantee that Dominion will be in Louisiana longer.

In a March 5 letter to state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, the Slidell Republican who chairs the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, Ardoin tells Hewitt that her pressure on him to ditch the bidding process “has now resulted in Louisiana’s prolonged use of its current inventory of Dominion voting machines.” 

The conspiracy theories that the state’s Republicans are pushing are ridiculous. That doesn’t mean that the state’s voting machines are working well.

In an Election Day letter to Ardoin’s office, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said it heard from voters in Shreveport, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans about a particular malfunction that “deselects or changes voters’ selections for the presidential election, requiring a voter to both notice the malfunction and reselect their presidential votes—sometimes multiple times—in order to ensure that their ballot is completed, otherwise the ballots are submitted with the voter’s presidential choice changed or blanked out.” The law firm never heard back from Ardoin’s office, a spokesperson for the firm said in an email Thursday. Nor did Ardoin’s office respond to this columnist’s request about the alleged malfunction.

We need to trust that our voting machines correctly record our votes. But when they don’t, we don’t have to imagine conspiracies.  We can remember that some of our voting machines were made as far back as 1995.

And as Ardoin points out, now we’re stuck with that decrepit technology for even longer because some of our lawmakers have come to believe things that no reasonable person should.

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Jarvis DeBerry
Jarvis DeBerry

Jarvis DeBerry, former editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, spent 22 years at The Times-Picayune (and later as a crime and courts reporter, an editorial writer, columnist and deputy opinions editor. He was on the team of Times-Picayune journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after that team’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly flood that followed. In addition to the shared Pulitzer, DeBerry has won awards from the Louisiana Bar Association for best trial coverage and awards from the New Orleans Press Club, the Louisiana/ Mississippi Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists for his columns. A collection of his Times-Picayune columns, “I Feel to Believe” was published by the University of New Orleans Press in September 2020.