Hand-Count VS Voting Machines, Shasta County Controversy ’23

Hand Counted Elections or Voting Machines? That is the Question

It appears as though the Democratic Majority which runs California are insecure about Shasta County’s Board and their willingness to express their self-determination. In a controversial move, California lawmakers voted, in an overwhelming majority, in favor of AB-969 which essentially forbids a hand-counted election in any County with a population over 1000. This Assembly Bill was drafted in direct response to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors’ decision to kick Dominion Voting Machines to the curb in favor of a hand-count election tabulation.

With new California laws passed, Shasta County potentially becoming a Charter County, the recall effort targeting Board Member Kevin Cyre, and the cancelation of contracts with state approved voting machines in a move toward a hand-counted election – the temperature is rising in Shasta County and some deep analysis is needed to make sense of it all. But is this “controversy” just a playbook rollout by the mainstream media? Could California Democrats, for reasons we can only speculate, view a hand-count election in Republican-controlled Shasta County as a threat?

In this article, we will break down this issue into simple facts, so we can understand what is going on in Shasta County and let you decide.

The State of California wants to call the shots in Shasta County.

Grab your popcorn friends because this is where the story starts to get spicy!

The county responded to the passing of AB-969 with a board vote of 3 vs 2 to ask voters if they should transition to a “charter county.” AB-969, which is designed to effectively outlaw Shasta’s recent move to hand-counted elections, as well as prevent other Counties from following their lead, could essentially be ignored if the People of Shasta vote that way.

California legislature has explained their actions as a precaution to prevent the County from running out of time in the State-wide Vote Certification process. KRCR spoke with Chico State Political Science Professor Charley Turner about the passing of this bill, his comments are below.

“I mean, the reason we went to voting machines rather than doing this stuff by hand to begin with is because it’s a lot more efficient and it’s a lot more accurate,” said Turner. “So I think that’s the concern that a county could really hold up a statewide election by not submitting their own vote totals.”

KCRA

However, in a CNN article titled, “Why does it take California so long to count their votes?” the author goes on to explain that,

More than a week after Election Day, attention turned to some of the outstanding races in California. Tuesday was the last day that county election officials could accept ballots that were postmarked on or before Election Day – meaning the Golden State is just getting started counting some of those late-arriving ballots.

California now mails every registered voter a ballot, a practice that began in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic and ultimately became permanent in September 2021 in an effort to increase voter access and participation. Under state law, ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must be accepted by county elections offices for seven days after polls close.

CNN, Why it takes California so long to count its votes, By Maeve Reston, Nov 16 2022

Foot-Count? Bloated Costs?

Obviously, suppose the entire Country already waits over a week for California to certify their vote. In that case, it appears as though Shasta County ought to have ample time to complete the task if they chose to count them by foot – just for the added challenge.

Opponents of the hand-count say it has already cost the County over a million dollars and that hand-counting would amount to even higher costs due to the efficiency of hand-counted versus machine-counted. However, the proponents argue the costs are being overblown by their detractors and that the increased security and accountability are worth whatever the additional cost may be in order to ensure the Shasta Voters’ election is secure.

What is a Charter County and how is this a Solution?

A charter county is a type of local government which operates under a specific charter or constitution that outlines its organization, powers, and responsibilities. This charter grants the county more flexibility and independence in how it manages its affairs compared to a general law county, which follows the rules and regulations set by the state government.

In a charter county, the county’s residents have the ability to define their local government’s structure and how it operates through the charter, allowing for more customization and local control. This may include decisions on the number of elected officials, their roles and responsibilities, and various policies specific to that county.

Shasta County a Charter County to be??

If Shasta County becomes a charter county, this would give its Board of Supervisors the authority to appoint replacements for vacant positions on the board, rather than having the state government or governor make those appointments. This change would grant the county more local autonomy in this particular aspect of governance. This would also put the Board of Supervisors back in the driver’s seat, so-to-speak, in regard to the decision over hand-counted elections or voting machines.

This decision has sparked debates and concerns among residents, particularly due to the upcoming recall election of District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye. Furthermore, this entire saga can and should be used as an educational tool to understand this somewhat complex process better so We The People can yield our right to secure elections and see to it that election integrity transcends our political differences.

Understanding The Charter Proposal

The Board’s vote is about asking voters whether Shasta County should become a charter county. The proposed charter, however, includes only one provision: allowing the Board of Supervisors to appoint replacements when there are vacant positions on the board. Some residents are worried that this move might be the first step toward making the county clerk/registrar of voter position an appointed role instead of an elected one.

Voting Split: 

The board’s members were divided on this issue, with Crye, Kelstrom, and Jones voting in favor and Garman and Rickert voting against it. This represents a 3 vs 2 vote, which is an affirmative vote.

Reason Behind the Proposal 

Crye, who faces a recall in March 2024, suggested this idea because he fears that if he is recalled, the governor will appoint his replacement. Allowing the board to fill vacancies is seen as a way to maintain local control. With Gavin Newsom expected to sign AB-969 into law it only goes to reason that he would also appoint someone who shares his political affiliation and goals. 

Some residents, like Dana Silberstein and Judy Salter, are suspicious that additional amendments to the charter may be made later to change the county clerk/registrar of voter position from elected to appointed. While this is well within the rights and capability of a Charter County, the current Board has not made any overtures which would indicate that intent. Furthermore, it appears as though the current clerk/registrar would have to be successfully recalled or finish her term for such a decision to have proper merit.

Controversy with County Clerk: 

The county clerk, Cathy Darling Allen, has had disputes with the board over how ballots should be counted in future elections. This is due to statements she has made in the past regarding voting machines and their relative security. It is reported that she, in the past, made statements to the effect that voting machines used in Shasta County (Hart InterCivic Vote Tabulating Machines) serialize the ballots and do not mechanically tabulate them. At the April 6, 2023 Board Meeting at minute 54:00 on the video linked here, and embedded below, you can clearly hear them claim the machines serialize the ballots.

VIDEO: Shasta Board of Supervisors – April 6, 2023

VIDEO: Shasta County Board of Supervisors – October 30, 2023

These statements made in the video above by the Clerk/Registrar regarding serialization do not seem to be based in fact, as pointed out by Supervisor Patrick Jones who recently said,

“We find out, now, later after the fact, that what we purchased does not serialize the ballots and, in fact, it does electronic tabulate, which, I believe, this body was misled by you, in April, at that portion of the contract,” 

-Supervisors Board Chair Patrick Jones

We were curious to find out, on our own, if the machines were indeed able to serialize the ballots and feeling as though, due to the passion on both sides of the argument, at least a confirmation there would bring some solace. We reached out directly to Steven Stockwell at Hart Inter-Civic to inquire about the technology. Over the phone, Stockwell told me they do not sell machines that mark or serialize ballots in any way. He went on the explain, in general terms, how they work in a similar fashion to other tabulation devices, providing a receipt at the end which holds critical information about the election totals.

Getting to the HART of the Matter

Stockwell expressed his concern to me, adding that the company was paying some attention to recent headlines in regard to the County and its ongoing controversy. He asked that I email him the links to the board meeting videos and I did so with added time stamps to help him navigate directly to the moments in question. The entire email chain is posted at the end of this article. (Note: The Lost Coast Populist unearthed evidence Mr. Stockwell, in his capacity with Hart Inter-Civic was a party to a Parker County, Texas, complaint and upon examination of the minutes of their March 9, 2020 Board meeting, found their Election Administrator, Don Markum, was instructed to ” … calculate the total cost of how much the Hart voting equipment failure cost the county.”)

What strikes me and the Lost Coast Populist team as remarkable, is how Stockwell responded, effectively passing the buck to the current registrar. When a follow-up email was sent narrowing the focus to a simple confirmation, in writing, about the capability, or incapability, of Hart Inter-Civic Voting Machines to serialize the ballots, we have yet to receive a response.

Ask the Registrar About Right-Wing Conspiracy Theorists

Furthermore, Cathy Allen’s bias has been noted by critics who sent us links to her official campaign page on Facebook titled, “Cathy Darling Allen Shasta County Clerk.” In a recent post, posted on September 3rd (see below), she shared a link to an NPR Podcast segment covering the ongoing controversy around AB-969.

Within the first 15 seconds, the narrator characterizes the proponents of hand-counted elections as, “Right Wing conspiracy theorists in control of Shasta County.” I took the liberty to add imagery to the audio and created the featured video for this post. The rhetoric used appears as a propaganda effort to cast doubt on the Board’s intellectual authority as well as their ability to discern what their constituents demand by painting them with the same brush the media used to paint January 6th.

“Judy Salter said she was suspicious there was only one issue in the charter and it was being presented to voters at the same time as Crye’s recall.

“Now I don’t want Gavin Newsom to do this either. But I don’t want you to do it either. I want the citizens to give us back local rule. Let us elect a person to fill that vacancy, as opposed to having you all step in because who you all are is going to change every time we go around,” Salter said.

Crye said if he is recalled, the board would not be able to appoint his replacement until 2025, and Interim County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr said state law prohibits the board from reappointing a supervisor who has been recalled.”

Daman Arthur

Crye’s Response: 

Crye expressed his surprise at the opposition to the charter proposal, emphasizing that it’s about giving people more say in their community and allowing them to chart their own path.

In simpler terms, Shasta County residents are being asked to vote on whether to change how vacant positions on the Board of Supervisors are filled. Some are concerned this change might lead to more significant alterations in how the county is run, and there’s a debate about the timing of this vote, especially in light of Supervisor Crye’s upcoming recall election. The board is divided on the issue, with some members calling for more research and public input before moving forward.

The importance of local government structures and the potential impact of this change on Shasta County’s governance is the real chess piece at play. While every other publication shies away from the elephant in the room, I felt compelled to point directly at it and speak the truth.

Historical Context

Hand-counted elections, where trained election workers manually tally paper ballots, have several advantages over electronically tabulated elections, especially regarding security and maintaining trust in the democratic process.

Hand-counted elections have a long history of use, and they offer a tangible, transparent, and verifiable process. Historically, they’ve been a cornerstone of democratic societies, fostering trust and confidence among voters in the integrity of the electoral system.

Kill Chain – Vulnerabilities of Electronic Voting Machines, Exposed

Electronic voting machines, while technologically advanced, are not immune to vulnerabilities. Over the years, there have been numerous instances of electronic voting machine malfunctions, software glitches, and potential hacking concerns. For example, in the United States, there have been reports of electronic voting machines malfunctioning or displaying incorrect results. These issues can raise doubts about the accuracy and security of the vote tabulation process.

hand counted election or voting machines the controvers in shasta county rages on lost coast populist covers the nuances 1 | hand-count vs voting machines, shasta county controversy '23 | lost coast populist

This was the cornerstone thesis of the award-winning HBO Documentary, Kill Chain, which followed hackers who demonstrated firsthand the vulnerabilities of common voting hardware and software. This film was produced and released far before the infamous claims of Election Fraud by the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and includes various commentary from both Democrat and Republican politicians expressing their concerns with vulnerabilities the filmmakers discovered.

WATCH – Kill Chain – Full Movie

What makes this matter even more disturbing is that professional hackers explained the vulnerabilities of common voting machines that were still in use for the 2020 election cycle. The hacker explained to CBSNews,

“If someone tried to explain to me everything I learned in the last 15 years, I wouldn’t believe them” said Hursti in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “The most frightening thing is that from 2006 to now, nothing changed. The actual software that I hacked in 2005 is still in use. Those machines are still in 20 states. They’re still around. Everything is so outdated and it is so hard to make people understand the reality that this needs to be fixed or things will be getting worse.”

Hacker, Hari Hursti

Allegations of Fraud in Foreign Elections

Electronic voting machines have been associated with allegations of fraud in various countries. For instance, in some countries, there have been claims of manipulated results or unauthorized access to the machines’ software, casting a shadow of doubt on the legitimacy of election outcomes. These allegations have raised concerns about the potential for interference or tampering with electronic systems.

  • Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, has repeatedly claimed that the country’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraud.
  • Rodrigo Duterte, former President of the Philippines, claimed that the country’s 2016 election was rigged and that he won by a wider margin than the official results showed. He also claimed that the country’s electronic voting machines were used to steal votes from him.
  • Felipe Calderón, former President of Mexico, claimed that the country’s 2006 election was stolen from him through voter fraud and irregularities with the electronic voting machines.
  • Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia, claimed that the country’s 2014 election was rigged through voter fraud and manipulation of the electronic voting machines.
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former President of Iran, claimed that the country’s 2009 election was stolen from him through voter fraud and manipulation of the electronic voting machines.

The Strength of Hand-Counted Elections

Hand-counted elections provide a tangible and transparent process that is overseen by election workers and witnessed by representatives from various political parties.

This method offers a high level of accuracy and accountability, reducing the risk of errors or manipulation. It also ensures that every vote is scrutinized by a human, enhancing voter confidence in the electoral process.

Public Trust in Democracy

Maintaining public trust in the democratic process is crucial for the stability of any nation. Hand-counted elections, by their very nature, offer transparency and a clear chain of custody for ballots, making it easier for voters to understand and trust the results.

In summary, hand-counted elections have a historical foundation in democratic societies and offer advantages in terms of security and transparency. While electronic voting machines have the potential for vulnerabilities and have been associated with allegations of fraud in foreign elections, hand-counted elections remain a tried-and-true method for maintaining the integrity of the electoral process and ensuring that citizens can have confidence in their democracy.

It’s important to note that painting proponents of hand-counting as “far-right conspiracy theorists” is not only unfair but also counterproductive. Casting such labels on those advocating for hand-counted elections can needlessly divide the population over a topic that should unite all citizens, regardless of their political affiliation. The integrity of our Republic and democracy is a fundamental concern shared by people across the political spectrum. Safeguarding the electoral process and ensuring every vote counts is a collective responsibility that transcends partisan lines.

Accusations of conspiracy theories can stifle constructive dialogue and hinder progress in addressing the genuine concerns surrounding election security. It is in the best interest of our democracy to engage in open, fact-based discussions about election methods and security, fostering unity rather than division. Ultimately, the focus should be on strengthening the electoral system to preserve the integrity of our democratic institutions, a goal that should unite all Americans.

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Donnie Creekmore is a father of three amazing boys, and a proud husband to his wife. Donnie is a proud American Patriot, website designer and admin, successful businessman, and an all-around great guy!
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