Registrar of Voters Delivers Searing Facts to Hand-Tally-Believers: More Expensive, Less Accurate, Bad Idea

Shasta County Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen

It would cost nearly $1.7 million dollars. It would require more than 1,300 staff members. It would be more time-consuming. It would be less accurate. It would take longer. It would put Shasta County at risk for missing statutory Secretary of State certification deadlines. All those statements refer to findings about hand-tallied elections.

Those numbers and warning bells come from Shasta County Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen.

In a late-Monday night blisteringly blunt 26-page hand-tally analysis and three-page letter to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, Darling-Allen outlined precisely what would befall Shasta County it if proceeded with a hand-count voting system following the board majority’s Jan. 24 decision to cancel the county’s Dominion Voting Systems contract.

In Darling-Allen’s letter, she did not mince words in her catastrophic predictions, fact-based warnings and educated suggestions.

“The Elections Department strongly advises against the Board pursuing a full manual tally,” Darling Allen wrote in her letter to the supervisors. “That path puts each future election at risk of failure, inviting litigation, threatening election results and undermining confidence in the county’s elections.”

She concluded her letter by putting full blame and responsibility where she said it belongs.

“If the county misses the deadlines contained within this letter, the blame for election failure will rest surely at each of your feet,” Darling Allen wrote.

She continued: “Creating a new voting system from scratch, that likely will not comply with state law, undermines my ability to perform those statutory responsibilities, intruding on my position as a duly elected Shasta County official. As a five-time elected official, with nearly 20 years of experience, I urge the Board to select a certified voting system.”



You can read Darling Allen’s letter here, and her full analysis here.

For the abridged version, here’s a sample of standout excerpts from Darling-Allen’s letter and the Analysis of Manual Tally Options for Shasta County:

• To conduct an undertaking as complex as a full manual tally of a Shasta County election in this timeframe, an enormous number of additional paid staff, not volunteers.

• The Shasta County Elections Department lacks the resources and staff that would be required for a successful, legally compliant full manual tally in a Presidential primary or Presidential election.

• In addition to the $1,651,209.68 fee to accomplish a full manual ballot tally, and more than 1,200 paid staff, a large rental space or building would be required to handle the additional staff members and enough room to complete the tally process is a secure and transparent way.

• On March 13, 2023, Supervisor Crye invited Linda Rantz to speak with our working group. Rantz supports manual tallying of paper ballots and claims that her method of manually tally could be easily adopted by Shasta County. This is not true.

• Hand-counting is viable in nations like France because their ballots are less complex than American ballots.

• To complete a hand count of 94,084 ballots over a twenty-one-day period, the county would need to employ 512 workers capable of working eight hours each day for those twenty-one days. In addition, the county would need to hire an additional 758 workers to account for the 24-hour coverage needed for the semi-official canvass of precinct votes cast on election day.

• Manual tallies at this scale are error prone, complex, and resource intensive. As a result, more hand counting is not always better. Instead, and approach that incorporates the benefits of optical scan technology and employs selective manual tally as a check is the wisest approach.

• Hand counting is a very tedious and detail-oriented process. As workers become fatigued, more mistakes will be made, so it is important to limit the time a manual tally team works and require breaks.

• If the Board does not adopt our recommendations, it must provide the necessary resourses — at least $1,651,209.68 and 1,300 new staff — immediately so that the Election Department can implement preparation of a full manual tally. The Board must act on both items by March 28, 2023.

Side message to three particular supervisors

Darling Allen said that should the supervisors not take her advice, then the blame for possible election failure would rest at each of the supervisor’s feet.

To clarify, the blame belongs squarely at the feet of the three supervisors who voted to cancel the Dominion voting systems in the first place: Patrick Jones, Chris Kelstrom and Kevin Crye.

Unfortunately, even if Jones, Kelstrom and Crye miraculously come to their senses and join supervisors Rickert and Garman to possibly rescind the horrible Dominion cancellation vote, it will take the county time to recover from the wasted time, money and instability Shasta County has suffered because three grown men trusted the MyPillow guy more than Shasta County’s Registrar of Voters with two decades of experience.

Does that trio really want their legacy to be that they broke Shasta County’s free and fair election process?

One more thing: For days now, supervisors have been flooded with hundreds of emails from classically ignorant people singing the virtues of hand-tallied elections; pushing the supervisors to ditch the Dominion system. These emails were not a grassroots organic process, but rather organized efforts by outside people who whip their on-call patriots into a frenzy of misinformation about hand-tallied elections.

By the way, one of the ways to tell that they don’t live here is that they use terms like commissioners and councilors, when then probably mean supervisors.

With that in mind, let’s hope that the text-book-ignorant supervisors who voted to cancel the Dominion voting systems without thinking the consequences through are are less bamboozled by the sheer volume of emailers who haven’t a clue who are supervisors are or what’s at stake for all of us here in Shasta County. Instead, let’s hope they’re smart enough to be more impressed with Shasta County’s Registrar of Voters Darling Allen. She’s doing her level best to comply with her oath of office to ensure Shasta County voters will have a means to hold elections.

Maybe breaking the elections system was the three destructive  board members’ master plan. After all, it’s pretty hard to recall the worst supervisors if we have no voting system in place.

If you can’t attend today’s 9 a.m. Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting in person, then watch the live streaming version. Tomorrow will be a do-or-die, make-it-or-break-it kind of board meeting.

Three supervisors broke the county. It’s up to them to fix it. And it’s up to us to make sure they either fix things, or leave the board, one way or another.

If you appreciate journalist Doni Chamberlain’s reporting and commentary, please consider contributing to A News Cafe. Thank you!

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments