When Smartmatic started in April 2000, it offered its services to banks. The shift to election security came after Antonio Mugica, a company founder and its chief executive, was in Palm Beach County, Fla., during the contested 2000 election. “We were in the first row watching that circus,” he said. “And it really caused an impact on all of us.”
The company had success offering its electronic voting machines, online voting platforms and software products to elections around the world. It was also used in the 2016 Republican presidential caucus in Utah. In 2018, Los Angeles County chose Smartmatic to install a new election system, and its technology was used there in the presidential primary in March and again in the general election.
After Election Day, the company’s name, along with that of Dominion, became integral in the fraud conspiracies promoted by right-wing media outlets. Smartmatic employees and their family members received threats, including death threats, some of which were noted in the complaint.
“I had one in which I was told they were going to actually come kidnap me in London, where I was at the time,” Mr. Mugica said. “They were sending three people. ‘Plane is landing tomorrow.’”
Another threat, he said, targeted the teenage son of the company’s co-founder Roger Piñate. “They were able to find his mobile number, which is spooky enough,” Mr. Mugica said. “And to call and threaten him over the phone.”
Smartmatic’s complaint includes the argument that the promotion of debunked theories about the election undermined democracy.
“You don’t just look at the effect of the conduct on the plaintiff, but you look at the broader effect that the messaging can have, and that’s the broader effect of this,” J. Erik Connolly, a lawyer who is representing Smartmatic, said. “If you’re awarding punitive damages, which are largely designed to say, ‘Don’t do this again,’ it’s a broader message. That is relevant to a broader message that a court or the jury should send here.”
Edmund Lee contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research.