California Senate Expected to Vote Today on Bill Aimed at Shasta County’s Hand Counting Plan

California State Capitol Building photo credit: Public Policy Institute of California.

Yes, Shasta County, the eyes of California’s legislators are focused on you.

The California State Senate is expected to vote June 20 on an urgency statute prompted by Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors, who voted 3-2 Jan. 24 to terminate a contract with Dominion Voting Systems and instead initiate a hand count of all ballots in future elections.

The three supervisors’ decision to cancel the county’s Dominion voting system was made contrary to state election laws which, at the time, required all counties to use machines for counting ballots, and limited a county’s choices to three pre-approved and vetted voting tally systems.

Shirley N. Weber, California’s Secretary of State who oversees elections throughout the state, has since proposed regulations that, if approved in early August, will legislate how counties might incorporate plans to count ballots by hand under specific conditions.

Shirley N. Weber.

However, a machine tally system will likely be required to verify hand-count totals and as a backup system if a county’s hand counting is unable to provide timely results required by state and federal election officials.

As of Nov. 8, 2022, 40 of California’s 58 counties used Dominion Voting Systems tally machines and software, according to Weber’s annual report on the general election results.

To stem the tide of any other counties contemplating actions similar to Shasta County’s, however, legislative members familiar with election laws sprang into action to close any loopholes.

By March 23, California’s Assembly voted in favor of Assembly Bill 969 (AB 969) co-authored by Assemblywoman Gail Pellerin and State Senator Steven Glazer, both Democrats.

The bill prohibits a county board of supervisors or election officials in any voting jurisdiction to terminate an existing voting system contract without having a transition plan or a replacement contract in place.

A resident of Santa Cruz, Pellerin was elected in 2022 to represent residents in the state’s 28th Assembly District while Senator Glazer is in his eighth year representing constituents in the 7th Senate District based in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

AB 969 is also being sponsored by State Assembly members Marc Berman of Menlo Park, Alex Lee of San Jose and Blanca Rubio of Baldwin Park. All are Democrats.

A former journalist who earned a bachelor’s degree in the field from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Pellerin served as County Clerk and Registrar of Voters in Santa Cruz County from 1993 until she retired in 2020 in preparation for her run for a State Assembly seat.

Not only does Pellerin serve on the Assembly’s Elections Committee, she is co-chair of the Secretary of State’s Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee and served as president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials from 2010 to 2012.

In 2012, Pellerin’s name was listed first on the association’s letterhead with Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County’s own Elections Clerk and Registrar of Voters, listed second as Vice President.

Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen.

For his part, Glazer will be instrumental in guiding AB 969 through the State Senate approval process.

An author of more than 24 laws, Glazer’s groundbreaking measures include California’s first-in-the-nation ban on assault weapons, ending pay-to-play political contributions to local elected officials and enacting a truth-in-lending disclosure requirement for small business loans, making California the first state in the nation to protect small businesses from predatory lending practices, according to his official State Senate page.

During his tenure in the Senate, Glazer has served as chair of six committees including Elections and Constitutional Amendment; a Senate Select Committee on Student Success; Banking and Financial Institutions; Governmental Organizations; Insurance and Business; and Professions and Economic Development.

The California State Assembly is the lower house of the state legislature and is where most bills start.

California has 80 Assembly members, each member representing at least 465,000 people. In the current legislative session, Democrats control three-fourths of the Assembly and constitute a supermajority of 62 seats. Republicans control a minority of 18 seats.

If passed by the State Senate, AB 969 will take effect immediately.

“This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the California Constitution and shall go into immediate effect,” wording in the bill states.

Shasta County is working on a hand count plan that follows Secretary of State Weber’s proposed regulations, according to Cathy Darling Allen, who previously told county supervisors she would need up to 1,300 people — 500 per shift — in order to count up to 90,000 ballots in the time allotted by state law.

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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