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CA lawmakers vote to restrict hand-counting election ballots

By Adam Beam and Christina A. Cassidy | Related Press

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers on Friday voted to restrict when native governments can depend election ballots by hand, a transfer aimed toward a rural Northern California county that canceled its contract with Dominion Voting Techniques amid unfounded allegations of fraud pushed by former Republican President Donald Trump and his allies.

Shasta County’s board of supervisors, which is managed by a conservative majority, voted in January to do away with the voting machines it used to tabulate hand-marked ballots for its roughly 111,000 registered voters. County supervisors stated there was a lack of public confidence within the machines from Dominion Voting Techniques, an organization on the middle of discredited conspiracy theories because the 2020 presidential election.

On the time, leaders didn’t have a plan for a way the county would conduct future elections, together with the March 2024 Republican presidential main in delegate-rich California that could possibly be key in deciding who wins the GOP nomination. The county had been making ready to depend ballots by hand for its subsequent election on Nov. 7, 2023, to fill seats on the college board and hearth district, and resolve the destiny of two poll measures.

On Friday, the California Legislature, which is managed by Democrats, primarily voted to cease Shasta County officers from utilizing a hand depend to tally votes. The invoice, which was authorised by two-thirds of lawmakers in each chambers, would solely permit hand counts by native election officers underneath slender circumstances. The exceptions are for recurrently scheduled elections with fewer than 1,000 eligible registered voters and particular elections the place there are fewer than 5,000 eligible voters.

“Hand counts are advanced, imprecise, costly and useful resource intensive,” stated Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, a Democrat from Santa Cruz who authored the invoice and is a former native election official. “Analysis has persistently proven that people are poor at finishing rote, repetitive duties.”

The invoice now heads to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The battle over voting machines has divided the Shasta County, a largely rural space the place the biggest metropolis is Redding with a inhabitants of 93,000 folks.

Ought to Newsom signal the invoice, County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen stated the county has the gear it must tabulate votes in upcoming elections. Regardless of the county eliminating its Dominion voting machines, native leaders gave her permission to buy gear wanted to adjust to federal legal guidelines for voters with disabilities. The system that was bought, made by Hart InterCivic, consists of scanners able to tabulating votes electronically.

Darling Allen stated in an e-mail she hopes Newsom indicators it, calling it a “commonsense safety for all California voters.”

Shasta County Board of Supervisors chair Patrick Henry Jones stated Friday the county would sue to dam the invoice ought to Newsom signal it. He stated state officers “can’t assure that these machines haven’t been manipulated.”

“The state is now making an attempt to dam us from with the ability to have a free and truthful election with none exterior affect,” he stated.

Pellerin stated the argument that voting methods are simply hacked “is a fallacy.”

“It’s unlawful for any a part of a voting system to be linked to the web at any time, and no a part of the voting system is permitted to obtain or transmit wi-fi communications or wi-fi information transfers,” she stated, including that California’s election requirements are among the most strict voting system requirements within the nation.

Trump and his allies have been pushing county officers throughout the nation to embrace hand counts amid conspiracy theories surrounding voting gear, notably these manufactured by Dominion Voting Techniques. However few counties have agreed to take action. Final month, Mohave County in northwestern Arizona rejected a plan to hand-count ballots as a result of it will have price $1.1 million.

Dominion Voting Techniques sued Fox Information following the 2020 presidential election, alleging the information company broken its status by amplifying conspiracy theories that the corporate’s voting machines had rigged the election in favor of Democratic President Joe Biden. In April, Fox Information agreed to pay Dominion Voting Techniques practically $800 million to settle the lawsuit. The choose within the case discovered it was “CRYSTAL clear” that not one of the accusations about Dominion’s machines was true.

Whereas hand counts of ballots happen in some elements of the US, this sometimes occurs in small jurisdictions with small numbers of registered voters. Hand counts, nonetheless, are generally used as a part of post-election assessments to test that machines are counting ballots appropriately, however solely a small portion of the ballots are counted manually.

Election consultants argue it’s unrealistic to assume officers in massive jurisdictions, with tens or a whole lot of 1000’s of voters, might depend all their ballots by hand and report outcomes rapidly provided that ballots usually embody dozens of races.

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