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Shasta finally picks voting system, rescinds CEO job offer

A ballot drop box outside of the Shasta County Clerk's office
Roman Battaglia
Jefferson Public Radio
The ballot drop box outside the Shasta County Clerk's office in Redding, Calif.

After months of confusion about how Shasta County will conduct its elections, county supervisors approved a new company to provide their voting equipment on Thursday. That’s in addition to an effort to hand-count ballots.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pick Hart Intercivic as their new provider of voting equipment in the county.

That’s after the board canceled their contract with Dominion Voting Systems in January, based on unproven claims of election fraud. The decision made Shasta the first county in California to drop Dominion.

The county is required to have a vendor to provide voting accessibility, but their larger plan is to count all of the ballots by hand. No other county in California counts ballots this way.

During Thursday’s meeting, Supervisor Mary Rickert said that hand-counting is both expensive and a waste of resources.

“I feel like you’re almost, kind-of setting up the elections office to fail,” she said.

Elections department staff say that state rules that are currently under development about hand-counting would require they still scan ballots before counting them to deter fraud.

The board approved an initial $800,000 dollars on Thursday for the Hart Intercivic system. They haven’t figured out how it will affect the county’s budget. More funding will be needed to pay for the costs of hand-counting.

County rescinds job offer to Chriss Street

The Board of Supervisors also rescinded a job offer to a leader of a state secessionist movement during Thursday’s special meeting.

The county had nominated Chriss Street to become Shasta’s next County Executive Officer. But after receiving a background report on Street in late March, the five-person board unanimously decided to rescind their offer.

County resident Dana Silberstein said the supervisors have driven away qualified candidates.

“I grew up here,” she said. “And I’m thinking of leaving, you’ve made it so hard to be here.”

The last County Executive Officer, Matt Pontes, resigned in June of last year. Pontes led the county through the COVID-19 pandemic. Later on, he claimed he had been blackmailed by Supervisor Patrick Jones.

According to the Record Searchlight, Jones threatened Pontes with information about his criminal conviction from nearly 30 years ago.

The county supervisors say they’re extending the CEO job offer to another unnamed candidate, following a background check.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.