California Gov. Gavin Newsom is considering whether to sign a bill that would change some of the language you see on the referendum portion of your 2024 ballot. AB 421 would ask voters whether they want to “keep the law” or “overturn the law” and eliminate “Yes” or “No” choices. It would also require the top three sponsors of a referendum to appear on the Secretary of State’s voter information guide. But the final legislation is far more modest than its original version, which would have strengthened government oversight of signature collection, mandated more robust disclosures about the funders of referendum campaigns and required unpaid volunteers to obtain at least 10% of petition signatures. Those failed proposals, backed by labor groups, were favored by a majority of likely California voters, according to a June poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Election doubts have taken root in a very real way in Shasta County, 200 miles north of Sacramento, where a vote this year by far-right supervisors has election officials on edge about how to conduct upcoming vote counts.
The county, which for years used Dominion voting systems to tabulate the ballots of its more than 100,000 registered voters, is now going to rely on humans to hand-count the tens of thousands of pieces of paper. It’s a move that was encouraged by pro-Trump conspiracy mongers, including MyPillow exec Mike Lindell. It could make the count harder to verify and end up costing the small, rural county millions of dollars over several years.
The campaign text messages have stopped, and your recycling bin is finally empty of mailers. But while it’s not election season anymore, California lawmakers are still tinkering with how voting happens.
The number of election-related bills introduced this session — close to 50 — is average, election officials said. But that number has been whittled down since January, and this week’s policy committee deadline may narrow the active proposals more.
Some bigger measures failed early on — including a constitutional amendment that would have changed the state superintendent of public instruction from an elected position to one appointed by the governor.
The President of the California Voter Foundation has been closely involved with California’s voting systems for more than twenty years. She opposed California’s use of electronic ballots two decades ago, but supports the electronic ballot marking devices used now. She says people’s lack of trust in voting systems is important to address, but hand counting the ballots across Shasta County is not a smart way to build that trust.
In the late 90’s as technology exploded, Kim Alexander, like many, was interested in seeing voting go digital. So in 1999 when she was asked to serve on the California Secretary of State’s Internet Voting Task Force, Alexander went for it.
KQED's Scott Shafer speaks with Natalia Navarro about the dramatic events unfolding in Shasta County regarding decisions by its board of supervisors on future plans for the county's election process, including hand counting voters' ballots, featuring comments from CVF president Kim Alexander. (KQED Audio Clip)
Proponents of the lie that the presidency was stolen from Donald Trump are eying an often overlooked region of California as they continue to promote falsehoods around the 2020 election: Shasta county, population 182,000.
Shasta, a conservative stronghold in the state’s far north, recently ended its contract with Dominion Voting Systems, the company that has been the subject of a conspiracy theory that it played a role in swinging the election for Biden. The move has left the semi-rural county without a voting system and no replacement ready to implement when its Dominion contract ends next week.
Advocacy groups are urging Shasta County supervisors to reconsider their decision to end the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems, which provides equipment to mark and count ballots. The nonpartisan groups say the county’s termination without an alternative so close to the March 2024 presidential primary could have dire consequences on how the election is run and how accessible it is, and could further undermine voter confidence.
Dominion’s voting machines became a target of election deniers following the 2020 election. A review by the federal cybersecurity intelligence agency found there were no instances of the machines being exploited for election fraud purposes. The company is also suing Fox News for $1.6 billion, alleging defamation in the network’s airing of false fraud claims following the election.
Shasta County Supervisor and Board Chair Patrick Jones has placed the County’s voting process on the agenda again for this Tuesday, February 28.
He hopes other Supervisors will like his idea to transition the County to an elections process that would involve hand counting the vote.
“We’re a small County and (hand counting) is definitely possible,” Jones told Shasta Scout by phone last week, “And it’s going to be a lot cheaper than what we were doing before.”
What the County has been doing is using machines to electronically tabulate votes. It’s how elections are conducted all across California, but it worries Jones, who believes electronic voting machines are susceptible to outside manipulation.
A conservative group opposed to mass voting by mail is using millions of unused ballots in California – one of eight states that conducts all-mail elections — to make a misleading claim.
A recent report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a group that has been critical of mail voting, said that in California, there were "10 million mail ballots unaccounted for" in the November midterm election.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation is chaired by Cleta Mitchell, who, as a lawyer for former President Donald Trump’s campaign, was on the phone with Trump when he asked Georgia’s secretary of state to "find" enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in that state.
The report was cited in headlines and articles on several conservative media sites, including Breitbart, The Daily Signal and The Epoch Times.
The midterm election was three weeks ago, but as of Monday evening, there were a projected 8,700 outstanding ballots left to count.
By law, the county Registrar of Voters (ROV) has 30 days to certify an election — that's a little more than a week away.
Delays such as this are not unusual, California Voter Foundation president and founder Kim Alexander said. Her organization works to improve the voting process.