REDDING, Calif. — Election Day is two weeks away and the Shasta County Clerk’s Office is hoping things go differently than they did during June 7's primary.
Questions about voting integrity caused some voters to show up and observe the process at the Election's office in downtown Redding. Voters spoke with and filmed County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen, frequently asking her questions about her team's procedures. Observers spent several hours inside the building, where the ballots were actively being counted. They also spent time in the alley behind the building in downtown Redding, where ballots were being delivered from various precincts.
Darling Allen said their presence did not slow their work but did tell KRCR on Tuesday the events were “distracting and disrupting.”
"We've rewritten the observer rules. Just really fine-tuned them, did a deep dive into the law to make sure that we are meeting all the requirements of the law, and also, allowing folks to stay safe," Darling Allen explained. "What that means, generally, is if we have 40 people who want to be in the building watching at one time, that’s not going to work. We don’t have the physical space to accommodate that many people."
Darling Allen declined to specify how many people would be allowed in at a time but did said people might have to wait.
We’re not going to ever tell anybody ‘no, you can’t watch,’ but you may have to wait a half-hour while the rep. from the Dem. party or the rep. from the Republican party takes their legislative turn observing pieces and parts of this process."
Additionally, the Elections Office now has security cameras in front and behind their building in the alley—cameras that were not yet active in June.
"We come to work every day with the profound understanding of the importance of what we do," Darling Allen said. "It is the foundation of our republic and our democracy. But... it's really difficult to do that work when we have people in the office who are being hostile and aggressive, and we did experience that both in February and in June."
All that said, the County Clerk praised the right to observe as a key to transparency in an election process; she just hopes people remain civil.
"Do you feel things will go smoothly this election cycle?" asked KRCR's Sam Chimenti.
"Yes, and no," replied Darling Allen. "There’s a lot of layers. There are a lot of moving parts. We’ve had a very concerted effort to, on the part of a bunch of folks, to distract and disrupt our operation and that is always concerning."
California law allows counties to set their own rules for election observers.