Shasta County supervisors opt to hand-count ballots in local elections

Driven by distrust in the election process, Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to scrap machine counting ballots and go back to hand counting votes during elections.

Tuesday’s decision affirms the board’s action in January to break the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems and develop a process to tally votes by hand. Diode Laser Hair Removal Machine

Shasta County supervisors opt to hand-count ballots in local elections

The board did not vote on whether to replace Dominion.

The board’s vote directed the county elections department to develop a process for hand-counting ballots rather than using machine tallying, which has been employed for decades.

“The fact remains that these proprietary systems, without us looking into them, there is no trust for me. And most Americans, the majority of Americans, do not trust these machines,” Board Chairman Patrick Jones said.

But dozens of speakers Tuesday disagreed with Jones. They claimed the board’s actions would unnecessarily cost the county nearly $2 million, create more vote-counting errors and possibly interfere with the timing of future elections.

“You were voted in with the Dominion Voting System,” Judy Menoher said, pointing to the three supervisors who voted to break the contract.  “If you think that is wrong, then perhaps we should have another election.”

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The three supervisors, Jones, Kevin Crye and Chris Kelstrom, ignored Menoher’s suggestion and eventually voted to have the elections department develop a process for hand-counting ballots. That process would need to be approved by the California Secretary of State’s Office and make accommodations for people with disabilities, according to Jones.

Supervisors Tim Garman and Mary Rickert voted against Jones’ proposal.

County Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen said she opposed terminating the Dominion contract and hand counting ballots.

Deputy Secretary of State Susan Lapsley said there could be drawbacks to hand-counting ballots. Tallying accuracy depends on the process the county develops, but the error rate could range from 1% to 25%, she said.

“Historical documentation shows that it is not accurate, and it is expensive and it takes a really long time. So those are the three downsides of the hand-counting process,” Lapsley said.

Darling Allen said in a report issued Monday night that hand counting has not been tested anywhere else in California. After Tuesday’s board meeting, Darling Allen said she wasn’t sure she could develop a hand counting system in time for a special election Aug. 29 or a presidential primary election scheduled for March 2024.

Related:Shasta elections official: County likely needs $1.6 million, 1,300 workers to hand count votes

She also estimated she would need to hire an additional 1,300 people to hand-count ballots. While some people on Tuesday suggested using volunteers, Darling Allen dismissed that, saying she would not use unpaid staff. She insisted ballot counters would need to be vetted and hired to ensure they were trustworthy.

While the supervisors did not vote to contract with a company to replace Dominion, they heard presentations from voting system companies Hart InterCivic and ES&S.

Darling Allen’s office estimates contracting with Hart InterCivic or ES&S, would cost the county about three times more than Dominion over the next two years.

The cost to lease Dominion machines would be $524,000. For Hart, the estimated cost is $1,806,853. The estimated cost for ES&S is $1,878,450, according to a staff report to the board.

But money was not the preeminent consideration for the board Tuesday.

“The reality is today, it's not about the money. We haven't even discussed the money yet. I'm not willing to go with one of these other machines or voting systems,” Jones said before making a motion to approve hand-counting ballots.

Read more:At Shasta supervisor's town hall, MyPillow guy, Dominion, New California VP questions ring out

Many who spoke to the board Tuesday also agreed with Jones, claiming electronic voting systems could not be trusted because they can be tampered with.

Clint Curtis, a lawyer and former congressional candidate from Titusville, Florida, also spoke Tuesday. Curtis is a former computer programmer who gained fame by claiming he was once told to write software that would leave voting machines open to tampering.

“This is our opportunity to get corporations out of our elections,” Curtis said.

Without providing information to back up his claims, Curtis said he did not believe what Lapsley told the board.

"There has been a massive amount of misinformation from the Secretary of State's office. In fact, she just told you about all these things about the error rates. The error rates are not real. They've made them up," Curtis said.

The board was also set to vote Tuesday on whether to set up an election commission that would hand tally one randomly selected contest. However, the board took no action on that proposal.

Shasta County supervisors opt to hand-count ballots in local elections

808nm Diode Laser Hair Removal Machine Reporter Damon Arthur welcomes story tips at 530-338-8834, by email at and on Twitter at @damonarthur_RS. Help local journalism thrive by subscribing today.