In broad strokes, the theory goes something like this.

Voting machines provided to counties by Dominion Voting Systems allowed a national conspiracy involving both Democrats and Republicans to flip votes cast for President Trump to ones for President-elect Joe Biden. This was simply a repeat of what happened in Venezuela a few years ago, where the same system was in place. As a result, Biden was fraudulently elected president.

There are a lot of reasons that the preceding paragraph is nonsense. One is that the system implicated in the Venezuelan election isn’t actually linked to Dominion in any meaningful way. Another is the idea that Republican officials such as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) somehow ensured a victory for Biden is ludicrous on its face. The third is that there’s literally no evidence that any such changes were made. The claims start from the assumption that Biden couldn’t have gotten the support that he did and use that as a starting point for assuming malfeasance.

But upon digging even slightly deeper into the conspiracy theory — a theory that’s been touted not only by former Trump attorney Sidney Powell but by the president himself — the idea that Dominion systems were used to throw the election quickly breaks down.

It’s important to recognize how elections in the United States are run. It is neither the federal nor state government which administers an election; instead, elections are run by counties. In most states, counties determine their own systems for doing so, including what electronic voting machines they’ll use. So it may be the case that Alpha County uses Dominion machines while next-door Beta County doesn’t, meaning that those criminals seeking to use Dominion’s tools to throw a statewide race have to make do with tweaking things in Alpha and not Beta.

A review of 10 key states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) finds that Dominion systems were used in 351 of 731 counties. Trump won 283 of those counties, 81 percent of the total. He won 79 percent of the counties that didn’t use Dominion systems.

In counties that used Dominion systems, Biden got 888,259 votes to Trump’s 851,069. In counties that didn’t use Dominion systems, Biden got 1.54 million votes to Trump’s 1.52 million. In other words, if you eliminated every county that used Dominion systems, Biden still got more votes. Biden won Dominion-using counties by about two points overall compared with his 0.5-point margin in non-Dominion counties.

Four years ago, Trump won more votes in both sets of counties. In most counties, though, the top-line result didn’t change: if Trump won in 2016, he won in 2020, and if he lost then, he lost last month, too.

In 19 counties, though, the result flipped from four years ago. Trump picked up one county and Biden won 18. Of those 18, seven of Biden’s pickups came in counties that used Dominion systems. Eleven came in counties that didn’t. Trump’s sole pickup was in a state that flipped from red to blue, Georgia. That county, Burke, used Dominion systems.

(The graphic doesn’t show North Carolina, because it doesn’t use Dominion systems in any county.)

The average shift in the margin between the two major-party candidates from 2016 to 2020 in counties that used Dominion systems was a four-point shift to Biden. In counties that didn’t use those systems, the average shift was three points to Biden. The average increase in votes for Biden relative to Hillary Clinton was 29 percent in Dominion-using counties and 27 percent in non-Dominion counties. The average increase in votes for Trump from 2016 to 2020 was 19 percent in both types of county.

The idea that Trump only lost, say, Pennsylvania, because of Dominion voting systems has to reconcile with the fact that Trump actually won more votes in counties that used Dominion systems (beating Biden by about 74,000 votes in those counties) but lost the state because he was beaten by 154,000 votes in non-Dominion counties. That same pattern holds in Wisconsin as well.

In other words, there’s nothing to suggest that counties using Dominion systems looked significantly different from counties that didn’t. The idea that Biden is president-elect because of some nefarious calculations simply doesn’t match the reality of the county-level vote results.

But, then, we’re trying to combat a bizarre conspiracy theory with small doses of reality, a medicine that has repeatedly proved ineffective.