Thirty-Five Days Before an Election, Shasta Supervisors Seek Expanded Citizen And Board Authority Over Process

Breaking: Thirty-Five Days Before an Election, Shasta Supervisors Seek Expanded Citizen And Board Authority Over Process

A photo inside the Shasta County Elections Office on November 8, 2022. Photo by Annelise Pierce.

On Tuesday the Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to approve a new county ordinance that would bolster the role and power of their freshly formed Citizens Elections Advisory Committee (CEAC). The board approved the five person committee on September 12, and appointed the first committee members last Tuesday, September 26.

One committee member was appointed by each of the five supervisors. They include Dawn Duckett, Susanne Baremore, Lisa Michaud, Bev Gray, and Ronnean Lund. All have been vocal public speakers over recent months with Duckett and Baremore often opposing the board majority on elections changes and Machaud, Gray, and Lund all supporting changes and expressing concern about election fraud.

Less than a week after approving the committee members, the board is looking to modify and expand CEAC powers by codifying its role into law with a local ordinance that would allow it to “provide oversight . . . over all elections related activities in Shasta County.”

The ordinance appears to also remove the committee’s previously-stated end-date and give members the power to access records, make copies of public records, observe all election-related activities, and receive “timely” answers of members’ questions from all election officials. The new ordinance would also give the board’s chair, currently Supervisor Patrick Jones, authority to request and serve subpoenas. The committee’s powers seem to be limited to providing the board with information and asking the board’s permission to request subpoenas. It is unclear if the committee will need to agree in order to exercise those powers, or what the board will be able to do with the information gathered.

According to Tuesday’s agenda packet, the county’s newly-seated legal counsel has “reviewed the proposed ordinance” and “found it legally insufficient and unenforceable” but it has nevertheless been moved forward by Chair Jones for the board’s vote this week.

If passed, the ordinance would take effect immediately. It will be voted on just 35 days before the county’s next scheduled election on November 7 for a local school board and fire safety district board. It will also be voted on the same day that the board should respond to certified signatures by calling a special election for the potential recall of Supervisor Kevin Crye, which must occur some time between January and March of 2024 according to state law.

It’s unclear to what extent this ordinance is intended to give the Board a greater role in the upcoming certification of a recall election for Supervisor Kevin Crye. The ordinance does specifically mention the certification of attempted recalls and this recall attempt specifically, saying that, “the recall validation process is precursor and is part and parcel to the entire special election process.”

Signatures for Crye’s recall election were just certified to move forward by elected County Clerk and Registrar of Voters, Cathy Darling Allen, earlier this week and will be presented to the Board later in the same meeting this week. Speaking to Shasta Scout by phone today, Crye said he will meet with County Counsel Monday to determine whether or not he should recuse from the agenda item on the elections committee. He says he definitely plans to recuse from the second agenda item regarding the certification of his recall process.

Earlier this year, on January 24, Shasta County’s Board voted to cancel the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems for electronic voting equipment. While the board dumped Dominion machines in order to implement a manual count of election ballots, the action was taken without having a legally approved system to manually tally votes in place.

At the end of March, the board instructed the Elections Office to develop a plan for the upcoming November 7 special election, leaving Elections Clerk Darling Allen with 8 months to create and submit a new system to the California Secretary of State for approval, implement state suggestions, perform any needed testing, make necessary system changes, and conduct the election.

Darling Allen still does not have access to a state approved system to run elections, which will occur in  just over a month. She did submit a hand tally plan, which the Secretary of State provided suggestions on. The Elections Office has also scheduled an October 5 open house for members of the public to observe a mock election using the hand tally process.

Meanwhile, AB 969, which would make hand counting ballots in elections where there are over 1,000 eligible, registered voters illegal, has been passed by the California house and senate and is sitting on California Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk to be signed into state law. He has until October 14 to sign, approve without signing, or veto all remaining bills.

“As an independently elected official, I’m going to continue to do the job that voters elected me to do.” Cathy Darling Allen, the elected County Clerk and Registrar of Voters told Shasta Scout on September 8 in response to questions about the original resolution. “The Shasta County Clerk’s office is a nonpartisan entity dedicated to making sure that every vote is counted and every voice in our community is heard,” she said.

This is a developing story. You can find the draft ordinance and staff report here for the Citizens Election Advisory Committee here. The staff report regarding the certification of recall for Kevin Crye can be found here.

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