Conservative activist calls off request for recount in California election won by a landslide

A conservative activist searching for a handwritten recount of a Northern California rural election his candidate lost in a landslide defeat canceled it on Monday, a day before it was supposed to start.

Randy Economy — a leader of the unsuccessful Republican-backed effort to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom last year — last week called for a recount in the race for Nevada County’s secretary and voter registrar, part of a right-wing movement to take control from local and state electoral machines across the country.

Natalie Adona won the race last month with 68% of the vote. She was almost 15,000 votes ahead of Jason Tedder, who took second place.

Economy requested the recount in a July 4 letter to the county registrar, saying it was doing so on behalf of Tedder, a Navy veteran supported by the local Republican party.

Economy stopped the recount Monday afternoon, the day the Times ran an article about it.

Now county officials are furious, saying that even though the recount was called off late Monday, they wasted time and resources to begin counting the ballots — a process involving the elections office, the district attorney, the board of directors, human resources and that of the chief executive of the county.

“The purpose here was disruption, and all of this is to shake confidence in our office,” said Gregory Diaz, the retiring Nevada County Clerk and Voter Registry.

“Now we’re basically being stiffened up for prep time,” he said.

The involvement of Economy — a conservative radio host who lives nine hours south in the Coachella Valley — enraged local officials, who described the whole thing as a stunt designed to waste time and undermine confidence in local elections.

Natalie Adona

Natalie Adona won her election to Nevada County Clerk and Voter Registry in June.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

State election law requires a recount to begin within seven days of being requested, and county officials last week began physically moving ballots from a secure location to a room where they were scheduled to be recounted.

Economy said Monday it canceled the recount in part because it thought the ballots had been “compromised” because election officials were processing them and the recount was affecting their office.

He said he thinks law enforcement officials should have moved the ballots instead.

This is neither customary nor required by law in most countries.

“I want to know who touched those ballots and at what time,” Economy said. “I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I just want the facts.”

The recount would have included an election already riddled with the conspiracy-fueled chaos that former President Trump and his supporters have infused into politics across the country.

Adona ran against two men who publicly questioned the integrity of the electoral process and reflected the rabid distrust of elections that Trump has fomented.

One of her opponents, Paul Gilbert, a self-proclaimed “citizen inspector,” said he personally inspected the 2020 local election results and voter rolls and found evidence of fraud — which the county denies.

Tedder, who received 23% of the vote, said on his campaign website that sheriff’s deputies must be present whenever ballots are collected from drop-off sites.

Ballots should be transported to the polling station in proxy vehicles and “tracked in real time” by GPS.

Tedder, who publicly criticized what he called the lack of transparency at the polling station, did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Diaz said Tedder sent a letter to the board of directors Monday afternoon criticizing Diaz for alerting local media to inform the public that a recount had been requested on his behalf.

“Rather than simply processing the recount request, Greg Diaz intentionally leaked this story to the press and slandered the intent of a lawful act that led directly to my being harassed via email and phone,” the statement reads emailed letter, which was published on the regulator’s website as a public comment.

“As someone aspiring to become an election official, I am concerned that doing so may cause violence against myself [and] my family and ultimately discourages future qualified candidates from running for this office.”

Diaz said that a minute before that letter arrived, Economy sent the polling station a one-sentence note withdrawing the recount.

In a letter last week, Diaz told Economy it would likely take 38 days and cost more than $82,700 to count about 38,000 ballots.

The week of preparation for the recount cost the district about $10,000, Diaz said Monday.

A room had already been prepared, and the county arranged for a security guard to be present when the ballots were counted.

On Tuesday, the board of directors was expected to appoint a registrar from another county to oversee the recount because it was the county’s registrar-recorder’s office, Diaz said.

Economy told the Times after pulling the plug that “it was never specifically about the outcome of the election” and that he just wanted to point out the process.

Requesting a recount is legitimate and legal, he said, but “everyone involved in this process was laughed at, taunted and yelled at by that one county officer.”

Adona, the deputy clerk, works in the election office but would not have been involved in recounting her own election.

She said it appeared the backers of the recount were “banging on people.”

“Don’t get me wrong, we’re all glad this election can be complete and final,” she said, “but it’s been a lot of work.”

The choice for her local office was typically mundane – until recently.

“But man, my life was kind of surreal,” she said. Conservative activist calls off request for recount in California election won by a landslide

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