Shasta County officials warn of people impersonating election officials, voter intimidation

Shasta County officials are warning residents of a group of people posing as poll officials asking voters to register.

Members of the group wear reflective vests and claim to be part of a “voter task force,” County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen said. She said her office did not authorize home visits and that she viewed these types of aggressive tactics as a form of voter intimidation.

These people sometimes claim to represent an elected official or are otherwise vague about their affiliations, Allen said. They don’t do doorstep advertising, they drive into neighborhoods, park in front of people’s homes, and knock on their doors to ask them questions.

“All of these things together made me very concerned,” Allen told the Times.

The voters’ office clerk and registrar received four messages from Shasta County voters about home visits in mid-September. On Monday, Allen released a notice informing the public that the county has not authorized these at-home interviews.

“The Shasta County Electoral Service approves and validates all voter registration applications. This will be done through a number of channels, none of which will include in-person visits on a Saturday or any other day,” Allen said in the recommendation.

The voters’ office clerk and registrar has received several additional calls since the publication came out, with voters saying they were also visited and asking questions about their voter registration. She referred all cases to local law enforcement.

Shasta County resident Margaret Cantrell claimed she was part of a group auditing the county’s voter registration.

“There are allegations that our recruiters have been aggressive,” Cantrell said during the Sept. 13 Shasta County board of directors meeting.

“I don’t know what that means,” she said. “If one of our advertisers is out of line, I apologize. However, I doubt the accuracy of this statement, because we are not.”

She said members of her group did not ask voters who they voted for.

“A person’s voice is sacred. It’s illegal to ask,” Cantrell said.

In recent years, Shasta County has become a lightning rod for political discourse and voter intimidation at public board meetings, where residents openly threatened elected officials. Former President Trump won Shasta County in 2020, and much like the former president, a vocal contingent around the county has repeated false claims that he won the election.

This summer, a vocal group of local residents claimed there were “irregularities” in local elections, which were swamped by far-right challengers trying to unseat incumbent politicians.

The Shasta County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to confirm the results of the June election, but not after hours of debate from residents questioning the validity of voting machines, claims of miscounted ballots and members of the public fearing them for their safety at public gatherings. In recent years, the rhetoric surrounding Shasta County politics has become heated and menacing.

The unauthorized “voter task force” visited homes in the towns of Redding and Anderson, both in Shasta County. Redding Police Chief Bill Schueller said his office had received some calls about the people in safety vests identifying themselves as members of the “voter task force”.

“We don’t have anyone who actually reported being intimidated,” Schueller told the Times. Only one person in Redding reported being visited by the group, he said, and that person refused to speak to the people.

His office referred the case to the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office because the “voter task force” was contacting voters in multiple jurisdictions.

“I’ve asked people when they’re visited by these individuals to take out their phones and record their conversations,” Schueller said. “We take this seriously. Now people are allowed to advertise, but you can’t intimidate the voters.”

Schueller said the people bought the voter registration information from the county, but it’s unclear if they were targeting a specific group of people.

Lt. Steve Blunk of the Anderson Police Department said he has not received any information from the county about the incidents or calls from concerned citizens. Shasta County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tim Mapes said his office also received no information about these types of incidents.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-30/shasta-county-officials-warn-of-people-impersonating-election-officials-voter-intimidation Shasta County officials warn of people impersonating election officials, voter intimidation

Alley Einstein

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