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With unfounded fraud claims swirling, red California county dumps Dominion voting machines

Swept up in unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors has upended the county’s election process by terminating its contract with Dominion Voting Systems and opting this week to pursue, among other things, the ability to vote to count by hand.

Supervisor Kevin Crye, part of a newly strengthened far-right majority on the board, also announced at Tuesday’s board meeting that he had been in touch with MyPillow Chief Executive Mike Lindell, a prominent pro-Donald Trump election conspiracy theorist, about backing a pilot voting system. in the rural province of Northern California.

On the same day, in another Republican-controlled county 400 miles south, Kern County supervisors narrowly voted to keep Dominion as the county’s voting system, but not before listening to hours of testimony from residents convinced were that the system was rigged.

Dominion is one of the largest providers of voting machines and software in the US and currently operates voting machines in 41 of California’s 58 counties. After President Trump lost the 2020 election, his supporters spent months propagating unfounded conspiracy theories about Dominion, including false allegations that the company’s machines were used to cast votes from Trump to Joe Biden and that Dominion — a company based in Colorado — was a corrupt instrument with ties to the Venezuelan government. Those allegations received a lot of attention in right-wing media, including on Fox News.

The actions in California local government halls come as Dominion wages a vigorous legal battle against Fox, claiming the network’s top executives knew the 2020 election voter fraud allegations were false, but Trump’s lawyers and other election deniers gave a high opinion. profile forum to spread their baseless claims as it was good for reviews. Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion in damages.

Lordship also sued Lindell for libel after spending millions on advertising election denial next to his pillows.

In an interview Wednesday from a plane on the descent to Washington, D.C., Lindell said he was “pretty proud” of Shasta. “Every province should do that,” he said. “I love that they are leading the way in California.”

In a statement, Dominion said Shasta County’s decision was “yet another example of how lies about Dominion have damaged our business and reduced public confidence in elections.”

Belief in the electoral system has been a burning issue in Shasta County for months.

The county has been in near-political chaos for more than a year after far-right activists, including members of a local militia, led a successful recall of a Republican supervisor and former police chief, in part because he enforced state-imposed coronavirus restrictions.

In June, two members of the Supervisory Board voted not to accept Shasta’s results in the primary, questioning the validity of Dominion voting machines and proposing a forensic audit of the election process.

Their efforts were defeated at the time. But in November, two more candidates, backed by hard-right groups, were elected to the board of directors, paving the way for Tuesday’s outcome.

Even in a province accustomed to public gatherings filled with rancor and personal attacks, Tuesday’s hearing was remarkable. The meeting lasted 13 hours and featured impassioned remarks from residents on both sides of the issue, as well as some bitter exchanges.

Representatives from the Secretary of State of California also attended. However Shasta County decides to count its ballots, the county will have to abide by state and federal election laws. The Secretary of State tests and certifies all voting equipment for safety, accuracy and accessibility, and ensures compliance with election laws. California’s attorney general has also written to the county, according to local officials, warning them to follow the law to ensure residents are not disenfranchised.

Board chairman Patrick Jones, who led the changes to the voting system, said he plans to follow election laws, but many in his county don’t trust electronic voting machines.

“There’s a great sense that they would like to return to something simpler and more secure, and more secure from outside hacking,” he said.

Supervisor Mary Rickert, one of two board members who voted to keep Dominion, said she believes the effort goes further. She and local staff noted that putting Dominion on the ground could cost the impoverished province hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional expenses, as the province will have to pay to have the voting machines removed.

“You don’t understand, our government is being overthrown,” she said in an interview.

One of the more stunning moments came when Crye made the bombshell announcement that he had contacted Lindell about the plan to return to manual vote counting.

According to an email Crye read, Lindell vowed that if Shasta faces “any backlash, including lawsuits … I will provide whatever resources are necessary, both financial and legal, for this fight.”

In the Wednesday interview, Lindell said he would “absolutely” support Shasta financially if they faced lawsuits, reiterating his oft-made claims that all voting machines are out of order and need to go.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, County Counsel Rubin Cruse told supervisors he couldn’t provide detailed advice on the prospect of Lindell interfering in the county’s election systems, as this was the first time he had heard about it.

At another point, the supervisors debated whether it was better to take money from a philanthropic foundation funded by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, or from Lindell’s bedding fortune.

Rickert said she was concerned about “the optics of having Mike Lindell do something like that. … Is that legal?” Crye replied that he had previously voted to accept money from the Zuckerberg foundation to purchase a municipal building.

Another supervisor, Tim Garman, chimed in that he “didn’t agree with Mark Zuckerberg in any way,” but that his foundation’s money came with no ideological commitment. “You’re talking about someone coming here with a huge political agenda, and I’m sorry, I just don’t agree,” he said, referring to Lindell.

On Wednesday, Cathy Darling Allen, the clerk and clerk of the electorate of Shasta County, who was re-elected in June despite being a registered Democrat in a predominately Republican-leaning county, was still processing events. The entire episode, she said, had left her sad and speechless.

“I don’t really have many words,” she said. “My focus is that we don’t have a voting system. That fact worries me a lot.”

In Kern County, meanwhile, what Board Chairman Jeff Flores had assumed would be a fairly routine item on Tuesday’s board agenda — the renewal of a contract with Dominion that’s been running for nearly a decade — devolved into contentious exchanges laced with suspicions about election riggedness. .

The board heard hours of testimony from residents who were convinced that Dominion machines were vulnerable to hacking. “Those machines speak for themselves,” said Taft resident Karen Boyd. “They are corrupt.”

In the end, the board voted 3 to 2 to continue the contract with Dominion.

“This should be a simple vote,” Flores said, adding that he wants the county to focus not on Dominion, but on other ways it can improve its election system and count votes faster. “We’ve had this system since 2014, so I don’t know why it’s suddenly a problem.”

Mia Bloom, a professor of communications at Georgia State University and co-author of the book “Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon,” said she has a theory about why local governments are suddenly beset by concerns about Dominion.

It’s “all part of the ‘Stop the Steal’ conspiracy theory,” she said. “There has been a shift within the QAnon echo chamber to act more locally,” she added, and many supporters have noted: We have not won nationally. Now we have to work locally.”