California is on edge over the recall of a far-right official who denied the election

By | March 19, 2024

On Super Tuesday, voters in Northern California’s Shasta County weighed in on the fate of a far-right official who promoted conspiracy theories that elections were rigged and backed a controversial effort to abolish voting machines and pursue a hand-counting system.

But two weeks after the election, the recall remains too close to happen, with Shasta County Supervisor Kevin Crye retaining his seat by fewer than 50 votes. As of Friday, the county elections office still had 1,200 ballots to process and residents are anxiously awaiting the results.

The battle for the seat of Crye was one of the most important races in a rural county that has assumed extraordinary importance in the national political struggle.

Crye, who has held his seat for just over a year, was elected as part of a far-right movement that has gained control of the province in recent years. Shasta became a hotbed for ultra-conservative politics during the pandemic, with vocal protests and threats against moderate elected officials and the provincial health officer.

Over the past year, Crye and the far-right majority on the Board of Supervisors, the county’s governing body, have moved to allow people to carry firearms in public buildings, in violation of state law. secessionist group.

Perhaps most infamously, they helped Shasta gain national notoriety for its embrace of the election denial movement, which proposes “solutions” such as exclusively using manual vote counts to improve “election integrity” based on the lie that the presidency has been stolen. from Donald Trump.

Crye, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and the rest of the far-right majority voted in January 2023 to cut ties with Dominion Voting Systems and create a hand-counting system. Crye even traveled on the county’s money to meet with Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow and one of the leading promoters of election fraud falsehoods. The county’s attempts to implement a manual counting system were ultimately thwarted by state lawmakers, and Shasta has since begun using Hart InterCivic machines.

As of Friday, Crye had the support of 50.25% (4,573) voters who opposed his recall, while 49.75% (4,527) voted in favor, according to Shasta County Elections Office results.

“It’s not over yet… We are behind less than 50 votes,” the recall group said. “This is about as close as it gets, so hold on… there are still 1,200 votes to be counted – anything can happen.”

While Crye’s race is still too close to call, there are other signs that Shasta voters may be ready for change.

On March 5, incumbent Patrick Jones, a leader of the local far-right movement who has baselessly argued that provincial and U.S. elections are being rigged, lost his seat to Matt Plummer, who promised to provide an alternative to the “dangerous path of district” hostility and division”. Plummer won almost 60% of the vote.

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Supporters of Crye’s recall have argued that he has not fulfilled his campaign promises to unify the province and advocate for fiscal responsibility, and hoped a recall could force greater change in the province.

“He does things he said he wouldn’t do. He broke his campaign promises. He didn’t listen to his constituents,” Jeff Gorder, a spokesman for the recall group, told the Guardian last month. “He was elected freely and fairly. But we believe a recall is appropriate if someone is misrepresenting who they are.”

Crye had described the recall as an effort by “Democrats in a very red county trying to usurp local control and the people’s vote” and urged residents to block the state’s Democratic governor from “ to dictate the future of our province.”

On his local radio show, Crye recently described some members of the recall campaign as evil. “They have made up an incredible number of lies,” he said.

The race drew intense interest and involvement from national Republicans and far-right figures, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Arizona Trump ally Kari Lake, who urged Shasta residents to vote no on the recall.

California Governor Gavin Newsom could choose Crye’s temporary replacement if he loses, although recall supporters and local officials have urged him not to do so. In some cases the governor has filled such seats, and in other cases he has left seats vacant.

Meanwhile, Shasta County’s assistant clerk and registrar of voters said the change in machines did not slow tabulation and that the county was on track with counting ballots in previous elections.

“We can only process ballots as quickly as we receive them, and if we receive 20,000 ballots on Election Day where we need to verify signatures, it will take time to do that,” Joanna Francescut told KRCR last week. “It takes work to do that, and we appreciate the public’s understanding of that process.”

The Shasta County Elections Office is expected to share its next update on Friday.

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