California lawmakers on Friday voted to restrict when native governments can rely election ballots by hand, a transfer aimed toward a rural Northern California county that canceled its contract with Dominion Voting Programs amid unfounded allegations of fraud pushed by former Republican President Donald Trump and his allies.
Shasta County’s board of supervisors, which is managed by a conservative majority, voted in January to do away with the voting machines it used to tabulate hand-marked ballots for its roughly 111,000 registered voters. County supervisors mentioned there was a lack of public confidence within the machines from Dominion Voting Programs, an organization on the middle of discredited conspiracy theories for the reason that 2020 presidential election.
On the time, leaders didn’t have a plan for a way the county would conduct future elections, together with the March 2024 Republican presidential main in delegate-rich California that may very well be key in deciding who wins the GOP nomination. The county had been getting ready to rely ballots by hand for its subsequent election on Nov. 7, 2023, to fill seats on the varsity board and fireplace district, and resolve the destiny of two poll measures.
On Friday, the California Legislature, which is managed by Democrats, primarily voted to cease Shasta County officers from utilizing a hand rely to tally votes. The invoice, which was authorized by two-thirds of lawmakers in each chambers, would solely permit hand counts by native election officers below slender circumstances. The exceptions are for recurrently scheduled elections with fewer than 1,000 eligible registered voters and particular elections the place there are fewer than 5,000 eligible voters.
“Hand counts are advanced, imprecise, costly and useful resource intensive,” mentioned Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, a Democrat from Santa Cruz who authored the invoice and is a former native election official. “Analysis has constantly proven that people are poor at finishing rote, repetitive duties.”
The invoice now heads to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The battle over voting machines has divided the Shasta County, a principally rural space the place the biggest metropolis is Redding with a inhabitants of 93,000 folks.
Ought to Newsom signal the invoice, County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen mentioned the county has the gear it must tabulate votes in upcoming elections. Regardless of the county eliminating its Dominion voting machines, native leaders gave her permission to buy gear wanted to adjust to federal legal guidelines for voters with disabilities. The system that was bought, made by Hart InterCivic, contains scanners able to tabulating votes electronically.
Darling Allen mentioned in an electronic mail she hopes Newsom indicators it, calling it a “commonsense safety for all California voters.”
However Shasta County Board of Supervisors chair Patrick Henry Jones beforehand advised the Document Searchlight that he was contemplating a lawsuit to dam the invoice. He did not reply to a request for remark from The Related Press on Friday. One other supervisor, Kevin Crye, is the goal of a recall election partly because of his assist for eliminating the voting machines.
Trump and his allies have been pushing county officers throughout the nation to embrace hand counts amid conspiracy theories surrounding voting gear, notably these manufactured by Dominion Voting Programs. However few counties have agreed to take action. Final month, Mohave County in northwestern Arizona rejected a plan to hand-count ballots as a result of it might have value $1.1 million.
Whereas hand counts of ballots happen in some components of the US, this usually occurs in small jurisdictions with small numbers of registered voters. Hand counts, nonetheless, are generally used as a part of post-election assessments to examine that machines are counting ballots appropriately, however solely a small portion of the ballots are counted manually.
Election consultants argue it’s unrealistic to assume officers in giant jurisdictions, with tens or a whole lot of hundreds of voters, might rely all their ballots by hand and report outcomes shortly provided that ballots usually embody dozens of races.
As one instance, Cobb County, Georgia, carried out a hand tally ordered by the state after the 2020 election. It took a whole lot of individuals 5 days to rely simply the votes for president on roughly 397,000 ballots, based on native election officers. To rely each race on every poll utilizing the identical procedures, one official estimated it might have taken 100 days.
“Doing one thing like a full hand rely in a sizeable jurisdiction will not be the way in which to place these conspiracy theories to relaxation,” mentioned Gowri Ramachandran, deputy director of the democracy program on the Brennan Middle for Justice at NYU’s Regulation Faculty. “It’s a technique to waste some huge cash and doubtlessly create chaos.”
Dominion Voting Programs sued Fox Information following the 2020 presidential election, alleging the information company broken its popularity by amplifying conspiracy theories that the corporate’s voting machines had rigged the election in favor of Democratic President Joe Biden. In April, Fox Information agreed to pay Dominion Voting Programs practically $800 million to settle the lawsuit.
“The argument that voting methods are simply hacked is a fallacy,” Pellerin mentioned. “It’s unlawful for any a part of a voting system to be linked to the Web at any time, and no a part of the voting system is permitted to obtain or transmit wi-fi communications or wi-fi information transfers.”
Cassidy reported from Atlanta.