Shasta County ditched its Dominion voting machines. Now, residents are braced for turmoil on Nov. 7

By Jessica Garrison, Hailey Branson-Potts,
Los Angeles Times,
November 2, 2023


In many elections, the suspense comes from wondering which candidate is going to win.

In Shasta County, the question everyone is hanging on is: Will the local election next Tuesday bring unrest or even violence? 

The county of about 200,000 people on the northern rim of the Central Valley made national news last spring when a far-right majority on the Board of Supervisors, swept up in unproven voter fraud claims, decided to dump Dominion voting machines and hand-count its ballots instead.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials then stepped in to stop the plan. On Oct. 4, Newsom signed a law limiting counties from hand-counting ballots. In response, Patrick Jones, chair of the Board of Supervisors, said he favored such a count anyway, declaring in the local newspaper: “I believe [the new law] does not affect Shasta County.”

But the county’s longtime registrar-recorder, Cathy Darling Allen — the only Democrat elected to countywide office — has begged to differ. Now, as a portion of the county’s voters prepare to go to the polls to pick a school board member for the Gateway Unified School District and to decide whether to adopt a new fire protection district, Darling Allen said she plans to follow state law as she counts the votes. And that, she said, means using machines the county has bought to replace the Dominion ones.

That stance has infuriated some county residents who subscribe to conspiracy theories that elections have been riddled with fraud because of technology. Many in the area also view the legislation as an example of blue state liberals trying to control local affairs in deep red Shasta.

“It kinda fries my muffins because Shasta County is the reddest, most Republican county in the state of California. Democrats can have the rest of the state,” Kim Moore told the Board of Supervisors this week. “If you don’t like it, get the hell out! Republicans deserve at least one county in this state that belongs to us!”

Some residents, including some supervisors, have directed their ire at Darling Allen, who has served as elected registrar in the county for two decades, until recently with little controversy. They have charged that she can’t be trusted to run a fair election.


But Supervisor Kevin Crye, who supported dumping Dominion and reached out to Lindell about the county’s plans, said he was concerned about state officials meddling in Shasta’s business. “Where do you draw the line of state overreach?” he said. 

The standoff is being closely watched across the country, especially as a precursor to the 2024 elections.

A group of nonpartisan voters’ rights organizations, including the ACLU of Northern California and the League of Women Voters of California, sent a letter to California Secretary of State Shirley Weber expressing “grave concerns” about the upcoming election and calling for “urgent, decisive, and sustained response from your office.”

In response, Weber on Friday wrote county officials, warning them to “uphold your obligation to comply with the law.” She added: “Failing that, my office stands ready to take any actions necessary to ensure that Shasta County conducts all elections in accordance with state law.”

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