Official certification of a petition submitted by District 1 voters to recall Supervisor Kevin Crye set off a war of words during the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
After the Elections Department reviewed 5,106 signatures received on Sept. 12, Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County’s County Clerk and Registrar of Voters, noted there were 177 signatures disqualified, leaving 4,929 valid signatures, well above the 4,151 signatures required by law.
“The petition qualified with the requisite number of signatures to make the petition sufficient under California’s Election Code,” Darling Allen declared in a short presentation.
Darling Allen then proposed consideration of a board resolution designating an election date to be determined by a simple board majority.
Prior to the presentation, Crye, the recall’s target, recused himself and left the meeting while the board’s remaining four members debated combining the recall with California’s statewide presidential primary election set for March 5.
However, their debate — starting at 3:06 p.m. — followed more than four hours of public comment, much of it centering on election-related issues with Darling Allen taking the brunt of complaints from those in the audience opposed to recalling one of their favorites.
On a motion from District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman, seconded by District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert, board chair and District 1 Supervisor Patrick Jones “reluctantly” voted to approve the motion, but only after commenting:
“Recalls are very serious business and I have concerns. I see a couple of red flags with the low number of 177 rejected signatures,” Jones said, echoing more than a dozen public commenters who cited statistics from various recalls held throughout California in the last decade, including one Jones led in February 2021 to recall Leonard Moty, then Supervisor of District 2.
District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom voted against Garman’s motion, suggesting “perhaps the new Elections Committee needs to look at this” — indicating a possible re-verification of petition signatures.
When grilled by various board members on the certification process, Darling Allen visibly bristled and flatly stated she would neither allow observers to view the signature verification nor an Elections Committee to review the verification process.
(Video courtesy of Benjamin Nowain.)
“I swore an oath to protect the secrecy of voter’s ballots as well as the signatures on a petition,” Darling Allen said.
Throughout the meeting, members of the public took turns defending or attacking Darling Allen.
One woman displayed a cat video on her phone as she railed on the need for “fair and transparent elections” and applauded the three supervisors — Crye, Kelstrom and Jones — who voted in March to rid the county of Dominion Voting Systems mechanical ballot counting machines.
“No machines means no machines,” the woman declared, claiming Darling Allen intends to optically scan all ballots prior to teams of election workers hand-counting those ballots.
Closer inspection of Darling Allen’s proposal on hand counting, as required by state Election Code, states sealed ballots will be optically scanned for valid signatures during the precinct sorting process. Vote tally machines will only be used to verify the hand-count results, a verification process required by state law.
Laura Hobbs, a frequent speaker at board meetings, claimed Darling Allen was “not legally reelected” as Registrar of Voters since she oversaw her own election.
Darling Allen supervises a large staff of Election Department employees who do the actual signature verifications and run ballots through the vote tally machines.
Benjamin Nowain suggested Assembly Bill 969, which still awaits California Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature, “should put this whole hand-count issue to bed” and boldly told chair Jones, “There is no low to which you won’t stoop.”
Kim Moore insisted, “there is so much tinkering going on in these (vote tally) machines, although she failed to provide any evidence.
Richard Gallardo claimed he was denied an application for serving on the election hand-counting panel.
Former Redding City Council member Gary Cadd asked rhetorically, “Do we really have a fair election process in Shasta County? My contention is we haven’t” said Cadd who lost a bid for re-election in Nov. 2016 garnering just 11,887 votes (19.5 percent) in a four-person race won by Julie Winter, who received 19,004 votes (31.18 percent).
Other also-rans in that race included Leah Tate with 14,374 votes (23.58 percent) and Adam McElvain with 15,576 votes (25.56 percent), according to archived election results.
As if on cue, several members of the public suggested the county board should hold off on scheduling the recall election until the newly-formed Election Committee could review the petition signatures for their own verification process.
However, two members appointed to the Election Committee noted the original board resolution forming the committee on Sept. 12 called it a Citizen’s Election Advisory Committee, while an ordinance proposed by chair Jones for Tuesday’s meeting called for establishment of an Elections Oversight and Advisory Committee, in an ordinance whose wording was rejected by County Counsel as “legally insufficient and unenforceable.”
Jeff Gorder, a retired Shasta County public defender, also questioned the Elections Committee ordinance.
“This ordinance is one of the most poorly drafted ordinances I have ever seen,” Gorder said, urging the board to listen to the advice of County Counsel.
“This goes way beyond what the State of California allows. You must follow the County Counsel’s advice,” Gorder added.
Richard Gallardo, a citizen, then stood at the podium and defended the ordinance.
“This ordinance has been rewritten and it is legal. We are sure this ordinance will be approved by the County Counsel,” Gallardo said.
Supervisor Rickert then asked board chair Jones who actually wrote the ordinance.
“I am partially responsible. I meet regularly with a citizen group and we borrowed the wording heavily from an ordinance passed in San Joaquin County.”
Jones then made a motion to place the ordinance on a future meeting’s agenda for proper action, a motion seconded by Crye. Garman and Kelstrom voted for tabling the item and placing it on a future agenda.
Supervisor Rickert voted against such an action and stated, “I believe this (ordinance) goes way beyond the State of California’s Election Code, and I wish someone at the state level would go over it before we consider approving it.”
In other business, the board heard a report on Shasta County’s efforts to block the California Energy Commission from reconsidering a wind turbine electrical generating installation called Fountain Wind, a proposal previously rejected by Shasta County after several years of hearings in which a majority of residents in the county opposed such a development.
One surprise near the end of the meeting occurred when three of the five supervisors — Jones, Rickert and Crye — chose to recuse themselves for various personal conflict reasons from a public hearing and possible action regarding an agri-tainment expansion proposed by Greg Hawes, who operates Hawes Historic Farm off Dersch Road east of Anderson.
With no quorum and just two supervisors — Garman as vice chair and Kelstrom, in whose district the project sits — no action could be taken, although dozens of citizens who sat through the six-hour meeting demanded to have their turn making comments at the podium until 4 p.m.
The meeting was adjourned at 4:02 p.m. when chair Jones and the other two recused supervisors returned to the board chambers.