On March 13 2023, a post to Reddit’s r/California_Politics reported that northern California’s Shasta County had just “dumped” Dominion voting machines, “leaving its election operations up in the air”:
A news link was added to the post, a syndicated March 10 2023 article published on several public radio sites. Noting that the “controversial decision” had left the entire county without a way to conduct elections , it provided details about a recent vote and a proposed system of “hand-counting ballots”:
The county [in question] is Shasta County, which is small and rural and occupies the northernmost end of the Sacramento Valley. This deeply red part of a blue state has been embroiled in unproven claims of fraud since the 2020 election.
The county’s Board of Supervisors has shifted more conservative in recent years, and the board’s chair, Patrick Jones, led the charge to dump Dominion, which happened with a 3-2 vote by the supervisors in late January .
Jones has been highly critical of any kind of electronic voting machine.
“For people to say we have free and fair elections without knowing all the things that have been going on and the things that we know, it’s just not true,” he said at a meeting in late February .
Jones has focused his anger on Dominion, echoing attacks the company has faced by right-wing conspiracy theorists since the 2020 presidential election.
In the excerpt, “embroiled in unproven claims of fraud” linked to a September 2022 article on the same site, “Election fraud claims are driving polarization in the midterm elections.” It focused on long-running simmering distrust in elections in Shasta County:
The  primary election in Shasta County in far northern California struck a nerve with some of the county’s far-right constituents. Voters elected a more moderate slate of local and county-wide candidates rather than choosing ultra-conservative politicians.
At his family’s gun store in Redding, California, Shasta County Supervisor Patrick Jones says what he saw during the latest election is driving his motivation to further confirm the results.
“With the work that went into it, the money that went into it, the effort, the issues. It doesn’t smell right,” he says. “It doesn’t look right, it doesn’t smell right.”
All six of the candidates Jones endorsed lost their primary elections, with the two supervisor positions heading to a runoff this November .
Jones believes in the possibility that somebody interfered in the primary election, but he’s offered no hard evidence.
Shasta County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen was quoted, comparing widespread, viral, debunked election security conspiracy theories to a “tent revival”:
I believe it, frankly, is an attack on our system and I’m not alone in that … It’s happening all over the nation … Several folks – who are doing something almost like a tent revival – have been here in Shasta County and given their presentation about the algorithms that are responsible for changing votes, from the Italian space lasers and the bamboo in the ballot paper, and all those other rumors that are false.
Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan described harassment targeting elections officials:
There were some people that sent me an email saying I was being tried for treason. They held a trial against me on Zoom, and then they let me know that I had been convicted of treason. And then, of course, they say the punishment for treason is death.
In July 2022, British newspaper The Guardian published an article about Shasta County, “Inside the remote California county where the far right took over: ‘Civility went out the window.'” It detailed a spike in political divisions in Shasta County, pinpointing the events of 2020 onward as a point of deviation in the region bolstered by a “thriving far-right movement” which had invaded local politics:
At some point in the last two years [before July 2022], Janine Carroll started avoiding certain grocery stores in her hometown of Redding, California. The retired grandmother could hear the taunts people made to those like her who chose to wear a face mask to fend off Covid-19. “You never know anymore what the atmosphere is going to be when you walk into any given place,” she said.
Masks are just one symbol of the divisions gripping Shasta county, a remote, heavily forested region in far northern California that has long considered itself an outlier in a deep Blue state.
Political tensions intensified across the US during the pandemic. But the ferocity of the conflicts in Shasta county surprised much of California.
Anger over Covid-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates culminated in rowdy public meetings and vicious threats against officials. Both Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election and the recall effort against California’s Democratic governor the following year found widespread support. And in February , voters threw their weight behind a recall campaign against one of the five county supervisors, effectively giving control of the local government to a majority backed by the area’s thriving far-right movement.
That reporting mentioned a movement called “Civil Shasta,” initiated to encourage unity and mentioned then-upcoming midterm elections, citing a poor showing for far-right candidates in the state’s June 2022 midterm primary elections:
The strife has also united some residents. [Two residents quoted by the outlet] have both joined Civil Shasta, a local group of Democrats, Republicans and independents who hope to bring decorum and civility back to local politics and return to a time where threats were not commonplace. Members of the group, which was opposed to the [gubernatorial] recall, write letters to the board and local newspapers and encourage those around them to vote.
Civil Shasta is intended to bring citizens together, said Roxanna Zalesny, who started the group, and push back against what she believes is a vocal minority.
“I think with everything going on it’s easy to just sit back and hope it doesn’t happen. Hope isn’t a strategy. We have to try to do something,” she said. “I don’t think people really want blood in the streets. We all just want to live in peace.”
There are some signs the area’s far-right movement may be losing ground. In the election [in June 2022], a slate of ultra-conservative candidates running for roles ranging from the district attorney to the county superintendent of schools lost outright to moderate opponents or will head to runoff elections in November .
A March 1 2023 Los Angeles Times article about Shasta County and Dominion’s machines mentioned a pledge of funding made to Shasta County by election denier and right-wing pillow salesman Mike Lindell:
In an interview [March 1 2023] from an airplane on descent into Washington, D.C., Lindell said he was “pretty proud” of Shasta. “Every county should do that,” he said. “I think that’s great that they’re leading the way in California” … One of the more stunning moments came when [Supervisor Kevin] Crye made the bombshell announcement that he had reached out to Lindell about the plan to return to hand-counting votes.
According to an email Crye read, Lindell vowed that if Shasta faces “any pushback, including lawsuits … I will provide all the resources necessary, both including financial and legal, for this fight.”
In the [March 1 2023] interview, Lindell said he would “absolutely” support Shasta financially should they face litigation, and repeated his oft-stated claims that all voting machines are faulty and must go.
A February 2 2023 Record Searchlight article about the January 2023 vote to drop Dominion voting machines in Shasta County included a statement from Dominion:
In a statement emailed to the Record Searchlight two days after the [January 2023] meeting, Dominion said, “This is yet another example of how lies about Dominion have damaged our company and diminished the public’s faith in elections.”
County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen said the Dominion machines have been accurate and reliable. They’ve been used to count votes in every election since 2018.
“We have done a 1% tally audit of every election in Shasta County since 2018. We found one mistake,” Assistant County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Joanna Francescut said after the Jan. 24  meeting.
A March 9 2023 transcript from NPR’s All Things Considered included a brief exchange between county executives about the decision:
KEVIN CRYE: And I’m not about to waste money on anything, especially this. So I have secured the money, and I will support upholding my decision because we will not use Shasta County money to go down this direction.
[NPR’s ROMAN] BATTAGLIA: Crye says that Lindell will put money in an escrow account to pay for any legal fees the county might face from lawsuits. That offer drew harsh criticism from the two supervisors not in support of the changes, including Tim Garman.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TIM GARMAN: Again, I appreciate what you’re trying to do.
CRYE: What am I trying to do, Supervisor Garman?
GARMAN: You’re trying to save the county money by putting it up for sale.
At the end of the transcript, Battaglia reiterated that the change left Shasta County with no way to conduct elections:
[Financier Mike] Lindell himself is the target of a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion. If the county wants to try counting ballots by hand, they first need approval from the secretary of state, which could take at least nine months. Until then, without choosing another vendor, Shasta County doesn’t have a way to conduct elections at all. That’s left thousands of county residents even more confused about the trustworthiness of its elections.
A March 13 2023 Reddit thread indicated California’s Shasta County had “dumped” Dominion’s voting machines, leaving no organized means for the county to hold an election. That decision was described in local news reports as part of a far-right movement affecting the area, as well as losses in the November 2022 midterm elections. The claim is accurate.