Shasta, where Trump won big in 2020, to become first California county to drop Dominion
A split Shasta County Board of Supervisors voted to terminate the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems after next month’s special election in the city of Shasta Lake.
Shasta will be the first of 40 California counties that used Dominion in the November 2022 election to drop the voting system, Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen told the Record Searchlight after Tuesday’s meeting.
Also on Tuesday, supervisors reaffirmed the county’s support of the Redding Rancheria’s plan to relocate Win-River Casino to freeway frontage property just south of Redding and voted to appoint Mary Williams as acting county executive officer effective Feb. 1.
Tuesday’s Dominion vote came after a long public debate on the machines, including a tense exchange between Darling Allen and Supervisor Patrick Jones, who led the charge to end the county’s contract with Dominion.
Jones joined Supervisors Chris Kelstrom and Kevin Crye to terminate the agreement, bucking the advice of acting CEO Patrick Minturn, who said it would cost the county at least $1 million to bring in a new electronic voting system and train employees.
The board’s majority agreed with those who spoke in favor of ending the contract and argued you can’t put a price tag on voter trust.
But others who spoke reminded Crye, Kelstrom and Jones that Dominion is the same system that tabulated the votes from the elections that ushered them into office. Dominion also was used to count the votes in the successful recall of former Supervisor Leonard Moty, which all three supported.
Supervisors Mary Rickert and Tim Garman voted no.
Garman wanted to put the brakes on ditching Dominion and employing a new voting system because he needed more information, including more specificity on the cost.
“We have a right to the people to do our due diligence,” Garman said.
In voting 3-2, supervisors directed staff to cancel the agreement. The contract states that only the CEO “and his/her designee,” or the county clerk and registrar of voters can terminate the agreement.
Many who spoke in support of terminating the contract called for an audit of past elections, specifically pointing to last June’s primary, when four far right, “non-establishment” candidates that they supported all lost convincingly to incumbents.
Jones, Crye and Kelstrom also suggested that the primary deserved a closer look. They didn’t mention last November’s election, which put Crye and Kelstrom on the board.
“Just because we’re all sitting up here and elected does not mean we had free and fair election every single time. And for me, watching that very closely, the 2022 primary election here in Shasta County, I saw lots of concerns,” Jones said without being specific.
Many who spoke also used the Dominion issue to litigate current voter rules, calling for the elimination of voting machines and the ability to vote by mail and requiring voter ID.
“Those are all issue related to state law. Neither I nor the board of supervisors can mandate voter ID, mandatory paper ballots. That is something that has to come from the Legislature,” Darling Allen said after the meeting.
At one point during Tuesday’s meeting, Darling Allen told Jones that when he talks about election experts who have cast doubt on the Dominion machines, she hopes he is citing people who have worked in the field for more than a couple of years. Darling Allen has been county clerk since 2004.
Darling Allen was referring to Douglas Frank who addressed the board last September at the behest of Jones and others. Frank is an election denier whose theories of systematic fraud in our elections have been debunked by experts and various media outlets.
Frank spoke at a rally for former President Donald Trump in Ohio in June 2021. Trump has claimed the 2020 election was rigged. Ironically, he received nearly two-thirds of the vote in Shasta County in that election.
“I don’t feel like you’re hearing all the voices,” she told Jones.
“I’m not sure what voices you’re hearing, to be honest,” Jones countered to some chuckles in the audience.
“I think we need to try and have a little respect,” Rickert interjected.
“Well, Supervisor Rickert, why should we have any respect? I was not contacted about this item; I wasn’t asked any questions about this item. Unfortunately, Supervisor Jones you have decided that I am not someone that you trust. But 68% of the people who showed up to vote in June, do,” Darling Allen said of her victory over challenger Bob Holsinger on June 7.
Jones told Darling Allen that she has conceded there is a lack of trust and asked her how she is going to restore that trust.
Darling said that since the November election people have come up to her at the store and other places and have thanked her for the work the registrar of voters’ office does.
“People that work in this field … many of us are in love with this work, we are so dedicated, which is why I am willing to stand up here and get abuse from you and from some of the folks here in the gallery,” Darling Allen said.
“Cathy, I take offense to your comments that I’m abusing you. I’m asking you specific questions about restoring trust in Shasta County. Those are serious issues,” Jones said.
Joanna Francescut, assistant county clerk and registrar of voters, after Tuesday’s meeting stood outside the supervisors chambers, wondering what more her office can do to gain the public’s trust.
“We have done a 1% tally audit of every election in Shasta County since 2018. We found one mistake,” she said. The Dominion machines have been used since 2018.
In a statement she later texted to the Record Searchlight, Francescut said in part, “The sacred work we do for each and every election is not as simple as it seems due to the many laws, regulations and policy we are required to follow, including the laws on the use of voting systems in California.”
There are two other voting systems that the California Secretary of State’s office has certified, Hart and ES&S.
“We have a lot of work to do now,” Darling Allen told the Record Searchlight. “People keep asking if things are quieting down for you. No, they are not.”
New board supports Win-River Resort Casino's expansion plans
Supervisors voted 4-1 to support the Rancheria's plan to relocate Win-River Resort Casino on property called the Strawberry Fields west of Interstate 5 just south of South Bonnyview Road.
Rickert cast the lone dissenting vote.
Last May, the board approved a letter that withdrew its previously stated opposition to the casino relocation and voted to support the plan.
But Kelstrom and Crye were not on the board, and Jones put the letter back on the agenda to find out where the new board stands.
Before the vote, it was announced that the Rancheria would pay the county $1.6 million in upfront property taxes, transient occupancy taxes for hotel stays at the new casino, and $1 million each to police and fire services to help enforcement at the new casino.
The board's vote is largely ceremonial since the U.S. Department of Bureau of Indian Affairs has the final word on whether the new casino becomes a reality.
Mary Williams named new acting Shasta County executive officer
As the county's search for a permanent acting CEO drags on, it voted unanimously to name Mary Williams acting CEO effective Feb. 1.
Williams' services are needed because Patrick Minturn, who was named acting CEO last June after CEO Matt Pontes resigned, will retire after his contract expires Jan. 31.
Williams thanked supervisors for the opportunity and for being "entrusted" to carry out her new role. She is currently deputy county CEO.
Williams will make $19,546 a month as acting CEO. Minturn, who retired as county public works director before becoming acting CEO, is making $24,338 a month.