Despite Low Turnout, City of Shasta Lake Voters Choose Tena Eisenbeisz As New Council Member

Within 20 minutes of the polls closing in a special election to fill one seat on the City of Shasta Lake City Council, Shasta County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen was able, with the help of the county’s Dominion Voting Systems Inc. ballot counting system, to post unofficial results from all three precincts.

A total of 940 ballots were cast on Tues., March 7, in the special election. Although the City of Shasta Lake has 6,010 registered voters, the ballots cast resulted in a turnout of 15.64 percent, Darling Allen reported on the Election Results website maintained by Shasta County.

The report was posted at 8:19 p.m., the website shows.

Tallied in that period were a total of 929 ballots. Eleven other ballots were unable to be counted because they must contain a valid signature, or otherwise verified by hand because of one reason or another. Those ballots will not make any difference in the final outcome of the election, yet the results from those ballots will be added to the official results, Darling Allen said.

The verification process can take up to 30 days on a national election due to the complexity of numerous choices on the ballot, the sheer number of ballots received and all of the various methods ballots might be received, including handicapped ballots, overseas residents mailing ballots and mail-in ballots postmarked on Election Day, but not delivered to the Clerk’s office until several days later, she said. Darling Allen said she hopes to have this election certified shortly after the March 25 deadline for having all ballot faults cured.

Unofficial Results:

Kristie Mathews received a total of 423 votes for a 45.53 percent total.

Tena Eisenbeisz received a total of 506 votes for a 54.47 percent total.

Kristie Mathews describes herself as a wife, mother, and grandmother who has lived in Shasta County for 20 years. She worked as a licensed real estate professional for more than 30 years and volunteers as chair of the Shasta County Commission on Aging, an appointee from the City of Shasta Lake.

Kristie Mathews

The Shasta County Commission on Aging is the official advisory commission to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors and the Area Agency on Aging, Planning and Service Area 2 on matters related to the older adult population of Shasta County, the agency’s website states.

Although retired from retail sales, I maintain an active Real Estate Brokers license for personal investment purposes,” her election website states.

During her career, she worked as a branch manager for the Redding office of a mid-sized, multi-state mortgage bank.

I played a key role in promoting professionalism by establishing the Redding chapter of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers. As a member of that organization, she was elected to serve in various positions of leadership including Secretary, Vice-President, and President, holding a term in each office for at least one year.

In her spare time, Mathews hosts a radio program on Sunday afternoons to educate her listeners on current news about the rapid adoption of cyber currencies and blockchain technology.

She lists her current occupation as Entrepreneur.

Although the City of Shasta Lake City Council is a non-partisan office, Mathews was endorsed for her bid on the council by the Shasta County Republican Assembly.

In part, she supports the use of paper ballots for elections, yet wants to eliminate electronic voting systems such as Dominion. She also supports requiring voters to provide ID and wants no mailed ballots except from the disabled and military members on deployment. She wants election results reported on the same day an election is held and clean voter rolls.

Tena Eisenbeisz

Tena Eisenbeisz is a gardening enthusiast with a knack for cooking. She has lived, worked, and done volunteer service projects in and around the City of Shasta Lake for 25 years.

She was appointed to the city’s Planning Commission in 2021 and is an active member of Shasta Dam Kiwanis Club. She is also vice president of the Shasta Lake Garden Project.

As a Planning Commissioner, I know growth is necessary to thrive as a city. I truly believe in preserving our roots and keep them in the forefront of my thoughts while promoting innovation,” she writes in her candidate’s statement for city council.

Eisenbeisz, 52, seeks to be the people’s voice on the city council, channeling both criticisms and compliments to help shape the community she loves.

I’ve served on the Planning Commission with Tena and I am thrilled she will be on our city council,” said Gracious Palmer, a resident of the City of Shasta Lake.

The thing that disappoints me about this election is the low turnout, which I believe is yet another sign of the distrust people are having with the whole election process,” Palmer said.

A Bittersweet Milestone:

Tuesday’s election is a bittersweet milestone for Elections Clerk Cathy Darling Allen as it may be the final time she and her employees are able to use a machine count system to tally ballots.

By a vote of 3-2, Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors voted to authorize county staff to notify Dominion Voting Systems Inc. of Denver, Colo., the county intends to discontinue a seven-year lease of the company’s Democracy Suite 2.2 system as soon as the equipment is no longer needed to verify and officially report the results of Tuesday’s election.

This could be our last election with this (Dominion) voting system,” Darling Allen said.

Instead, by the same margin, county supervisors decided to devise a plan for hand-counting paper ballots. This plan must be approved by California’s Secretary of State well before any legally binding election can be held in Shasta County, election rules state.

Elected to her fifth term as Clerk and Registrar of Voters in 2022, Cathy Darling Allen has overseen 38 elections and counted more than 1.6 million votes since 2004, when she was appointed to fill the remaining term of County Clerk Ann Reed, who retired.

Darling Allen is an active member of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials and has served on the association’s Elections Legislative Committee, the Board of Directors, and as President (2012-2014).

She received certification from the association as a California Professional Election Administrator in 2005 and was also certified in 2016 as an Elections Registration Administrator by the Election Center, a national professional association.

Cathy Darling Allen

Darling Allen is an originating member and Advisory Board member of the collaborative Future of California Elections.

It was under Darling Allen’s tenure as County Clerk/Registrar of Voters that a previous group of supervisors and administrators selected Dominion’s Democracy Voting System and all of its associated hardware, software, user licenses, and related services. Shasta County’s lease agreement with Dominion was negotiated to start Jan. 1, 2018, and was supposed to run through Dec. 31, 2025.

At the time we were choosing the system, Dominion was the only company with all of the integrated systems then required by the Secretary of State and California’s Election Commission,” Darling Allen said Wednesday.

The heart of the system includes an ImageCast® Evolution scanning machine with two optical heads to create a high-speed, digitally scanned image of each side of a paper ballot. Each optical head has a Compact Flash 8 gigabyte memory card for data storage.

The main scanner system includes a 19-inch diagonal LCD monitor with touch-screen controls and is integrated with an internal inkjet printer for generating nearly instant reports.

Ballots are fed in large batches into a mechanized track system to feed ballots one at a time into the scanning device. Upon exit from the tabulator, ballots shoot down the track system where they are automatically sorted into voting precincts.

Ballots that cannot be completely scanned because the ballot is damaged, or markings on the ballot either missed the intended mark or covered more than the correct number of choices, are counted by hand.

For example, in a race where two out of three or more candidates might be chosen, if three or more spots are marked, the ballot is set aside for hand counting and adjudication.

Supporting the tabulation system are 90 voting booths, one for each precinct and a few extras, as well as dozens of computer desktop workstations for Election Department employees to visually verify voter signatures separately from marked ballots.

This ensures that there are no duplicate ballots from the same person and that every ballot was signed by the person who was legally registered for that ballot, precinct, and election.

The entire system is equipped with an integrated voting feature for those voters who need additional assistance, either physically or visually, to mark a ballot.

Several accessible interfaces allow voters with various disabilities to effectively vote, review and cast a paper ballot in a private and independent manner. An Audio-Tactile Interface allows either a touchscreen interface for visual ballot review and ballot marking.

Following each use, an integrated inkjet printer produces a marked paper ballot which then becomes the official ballot record.

Shipping the entire Dominion vote tabulation system to Shasta County cost the county $78,000 in 2017 when the system was first ordered. The scanning equipment and mechanized track system dominates a large portion of the ballot storage area once paper ballots from each precinct are placed in dozens of locked boxes until they can be sorted, scanned, and verified.

Each step of the process is witnessed by at least two Elections Department employees.

All of that will be moot, however, if Shasta County moves to hand-counting ballots as a majority of county supervisors are demanding. And the leased Dominion will need to be uninstalled and packed up before it is shipped back to Dominion, most likely at the county’s expense.

This is a very serious and solemn thing we are facing. We are working diligently on the hand-tally solution. However, outside forces may not tolerate Shasta County not having a voting solution that serves all of the voters who risk disenfranchisement,” Darling Allen cautioned.

It may get worse before it gets better. However, we will get through this. I have faith in the people of this county who will support a solution that meets the needs of everyone,” she added.

If you appreciate journalist George Winship’s reporting, please consider a contribution to A News Cafe. Thank you!

George Winship

George Winship is a long-time Shasta County resident with a wide range of professional and community experience. After earning a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, he joined the Redding Record Searchlight as an award-winning reporter, and was the paper’s first business editor. He worked as a district field representative for Senator Maurice Johannessen, and later became editor of the Anderson Valley Post. Winship is a former Shasta County Grand Jury member. He owns and operates The Village Wordsmith, where he edits and rewrites clients’ book manuscripts, and works as a researcher and freelance feature writer. He can be reached at gwinship@shasta.com.

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