Far-right California county’s bid to hand count votes will cost millions | California

In Shasta county, a deep red enclave in far northern California, officials are intensifying their push to replace voting machines with a costly and experimental hand-count system that could cost an additional $4m over two years.

The decision of the far-right majority on the region’s governing body, the Shasta county board of supervisors, to press ahead with the controversial plan comes as half the county’s workforce is preparing to strike over wages. Officials on the board recently said the county did not have enough money to pay requested wage increases for workers.

The move has deepened divisions in a small county where public spending budgets are tight, with critics denouncing the price tag of an overhaul based on lies about election fraud.

In a tense meeting that saw one county supervisor served with recall paperwork, the board’s ultra conservative majority renewed their support for a system that will cost three times more than the voting machines the county previously used.

“We’re going to have free and fair elections in Shasta county,” said Patrick Jones, the chair of the board of supervisors, at a meeting on Tuesday. “Apparently money seems to be more important than making sure our elections are fair.”

The board of supervisors has pushed the rural county of 180,000 people into the national spotlight with its decision this year to upend the county’s voting system without a replacement, and attempt to create a new system from scratch.

Conspiracy theorists who believe that voting machines helped to steal the presidency from Donald Trump have seized on the county with high-profile figures in the movement, such as the MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, offering their support.

Some in Shasta, which has became a hotbed for far-right politics in the pandemic years, have cheered the board’s decision.

Since Trump’s loss, a group of residents had spoken regularly at county meetings, urging the board to cut ties with Dominion Voting Systems, the company at the center of baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud. They argued that the machines were a threat to elections both nationally and locally.

Their vision became a reality shortly after an ultra-conservative majority took hold of the board of supervisors and, against the advice of colleagues and elections staff, decided in a 3-2 vote to cut ties with Dominion and pursue a hand tally.

“We have disenfranchised roughly 110,000 voters and that is truly the epitome of denying our residents their first amendment right and they should be outraged,” said supervisor Mary Rickert, who voted against the decision.

Meetings on the matter have drawn large crowds, including election deniers and dozens of residents who begged the county not to do away with Dominion machines, pointing out that the supervisors themselves had been elected by voters using the technology.

The official who oversees voting had warned against a hand-count system, arguing that it is “exceptionally complex and error prone” and could cause the county to miss state elections deadlines, and ultimately disenfranchise voters.

Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta’s registrar of voters, told officials in March the new system would require at least 1,200 additional temporary employees, funding to pay them, and a space large enough to accommodate them.

This week the county’s deputy executive told the board that moving to a hand-count would increase costs by a minimum of $3.8m in the fiscal year 2024-2025, which she described as a conservative estimate.

But despite financial concerns and protests from residents, the county board has once again opted to move ahead with the effort, and this week agreed to fund seven new positions to implement it. Rickert, the supervisor, again urged the board to reverse its previous decision, which she deemed “reckless and irresponsible” and unsuccessfully tried to a call a vote to do so.

Her constituents are deeply concerned, she said recently.

“I’ve had many people come up to me and say ‘whats going on’? These are people that are rock solid conservative as you will find – ranchers and farmers,” she said. “Those are the people who are most upset, they see total fiscal irresponsibility with their tax dollars.”

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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