California Politics: Dominion voting machine conspiracies sow chaos in rural California

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell talks to reporters at a Republican meeting in Dana Point in January.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell talks to reporters at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in Dana Point in January.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Mike Lindell — chief executive of MyPillow and a prominent pro-Trump election denier — is excited about what’s going on in Shasta County.

Swept up in unproven voter fraud claims, the hard-right majority on the rural Northern California county’s Board of Supervisors has canceled its contract with Dominion Voting Systems and is considering requiring votes to be counted by hand.

“Every county should do that,” Lindell told Times reporter Jessica Garrison in an interview. “I think that’s great that they’re leading the way in California.”


At a board meeting this week, Shasta County Supervisor Kevin Crye told his colleagues that he had reached out to Lindell about the county’s election system and that the pillow executive offered to provide “all the resources necessary” to fight any potential lawsuits.

Also this week, Kern County supervisors heard hours of testimony from residents who were convinced the county’s Dominion voting system was rigged, Garrison reports.

The episode left Shasta County’s clerk and registrar of voters sad and speechless: “My focus is that we don’t have a voting system,” Cathy Darling Allen said. “That fact, it’s very concerning to me.”

Dominion is one of the largest suppliers of voting machines and software in the U.S., and currently runs voting machines in 41 of California’s 58 counties. The company became the target of baseless conspiracies after President Trump lost reelection in 2020 and his supporters, including Lindell, spent months propagating false accusations that Dominion machines were used fraudulently to elect President Biden.

Fox News personalities perpetuated those allegations by giving significant airtime to election deniers — even though evidence surfaced in Dominion’s lawsuit against the network showing they privately told one another the claims of voter fraud were false.

Shasta County’s decision to dump its Dominion voting machines is “yet another example of how lies about Dominion have damaged our company and diminished the public’s faith in elections,” the company said in a statement.

It offers a prime example of what happens when propaganda drowns out reality, argues Times columnist Anita Chabria.

Lindell is pitching “a softer, gentler — and more dangerous — version of the ‘Big Lie’ that vote fraud stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump,” Chabria writes.


“And we need it about as much as his Giza Dreams™ bedsheets.”

To learn more about how voting conspiracies are shaping reality in patches of rural California, read Garrison’s report here and Chabria’s column here.

I’m Laurel Rosenhall, the Times’ Sacramento bureau chief, and here’s what else happened this week in California politics:

Will more Californians go hungry?

Nearly 3 million households in California will stop receiving extra federal food benefits granted during the COVID-19 pandemic, a squeeze on budgets that comes as people continue to struggle with the rising cost of living, writes Times reporter Mackenzie Mays.

Since March 2020, low-income Californians have seen an increase in CalFresh benefits, the state’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps. But that emergency relief ends this month because Congress voted to terminate the extra benefits as part of the federal omnibus spending plan.

Now, the pressure is on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers to fill the gaps as experts warn of worsening food insecurity and food banks are scrambling to prepare for an influx in clients. While New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed a bill last month to increase the state’s SNAP minimum benefits in light of the federal cutback, Newsom has so far advised against any big ongoing spending promises, as the state faces a projected $22.5-billion budget deficit.

Read the full story here.

A fight over prison labor could come to the ballot

Here’s another example of deep-blue California lagging other states in ways you wouldn’t expect:

Last year, voters in Vermont, Oregon, Tennessee and Alabama approved historic ballot measures that removed slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for crime from their state constitutions, which could lead to limitations on forced prison labor. They joined a growing list of states that passed similar initiatives in recent years, including Nebraska, Utah and Colorado.


But in California, writes Times reporter Hannah Wiley, voters never got the chance.

Months before the Nov. 8 election, lawmakers killed a proposal that would have asked voters to eliminate an exception in the state Constitution that allows for involuntary servitude for criminal punishment.

The emotional debate pitted arguments that compared prison labor to slavery against concerns that eliminating work requirements would undermine rehabilitation and jeopardize restitution payments to crime victims. Division between moderate Democrats and progressives, along with the price tag associated with the plan, eventually tanked the legislation.

But now Democrats are trying again, hoping that passage last year in other states could help sway more support in California.

Learn more about the measure known as the “End Slavery in California Act” in this fascinating article.

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Keeping up with California politics

DeSantis makes California pilgrimage to woo influential Republicans

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, currently viewed as the greatest GOP threat to former President Trump’s 2024 White House campaign, is visiting Southern California this weekend to promote his new book and curry favor as he raises money for Republicans in conservative strongholds.

Newsom rescinds California’s COVID-19 state of emergency, marking an end to the pandemic era

California’s COVID-19 state of emergency officially ended Tuesday, bringing a symbolic close to one of the most challenging chapters of state history and of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s political career.

Newsom gets good marks in new poll but faces test with budget crisis

Gov. Gavin Newsom is California’s most popular high-profile politician, but that could be tested by voter concerns over his ability to handle the state’s estimated $22.5-billion deficit, according to a new poll. The findings provide a “warning signal” to Newsom about the fragility of his political standing among California voters.


Feinstein hospitalized with shingles

Hospitalized in San Francisco, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she hopes to return to work in the Senate later this month. She is one of two Senate Democrats currently out with illness, prompting Vice President Kamala Harris to break three tied votes this week.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass endorses Rep. Barbara Lee in Senate race

Bass, a fellow Democrat who served in Congress with Lee for over a decade, endorsed her former colleague and friend in the contest to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also a Democrat, who announced in February that she would retire when her current term ends in January 2025.

Barabak: Trump tormentor, whiteboard wizard — it’s the brand that matters in California Senate race

It used to be that House members like Adam B. Schiff and Katie Porter spent their days toiling in relative obscurity, writes Times columnist Mark Z. Barabak. But by the time they arrived more than 350 miles from home to address a large Democratic club in Northern California, both were household names with well-established political brands and celebrity status minted in viral videos, national TV appearances and countless clicks on social media.

Two men who plotted to bomb California Democrats’ headquarters sentenced to prison


Two alleged militia members in Northern California who plotted to bomb the state Democratic headquarters in Sacramento and “go to war” over former President Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election have been sentenced to prison. The pair admitted that after the election they began to discuss a plan to destroy the Democratic headquarters, using cans of gasoline to burn down the building.

Chabria: After a man burst in with a gun, a San Francisco synagogue confronts hate

Such incidents have become so common that this one barely made headlines outside San Francisco. Just another alleged hate crime in a surging tide of them, unremarkable without deaths to count, writes Times columnist Anita Chabria. In our polarized country where extremism is being mainstreamed, we are becoming desensitized to anything but the most egregious acts of hate.

New poll shows most California voters fear gun violence, but Democrats and Republicans are divided

Following two high-profile mass shootings in California, the majority of voters surveyed in a new statewide poll said they worry that gun violence will affect them or someone close to them. The survey also revealed a stark political divide over fear about gun violence among Californians, and of the disproportional concern among women, city residents and people of color in the state.

Skelton: Hydrogen cars should be a bigger part of California’s battle against carbon emissions


Some legislators want the state to invest more money into nurturing the use of hydrogen vehicles, just as California is pouring funds into plug-in electric cars. No one is arguing that hydrogen vehicles are preferable to plug-ins, writes columnist George Skelton. It’s that motorists should just have a second option.

Legislators propose changes to California’s conservatorship law

With support from a coalition of mayors, mental health advocates and California legislators, state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) unveiled two bills Wednesday that would bring changes to the state’s behavioral health system. They are meant to address the cycle that many individuals with severe mental illness face between homelessness and treatment, filling emergency rooms and exhausting providers, while running the risk of incarceration, overdose or death.

Skelton: Newsom cares more about almond growers than California’s salmon fishery

Gov. Gavin Newsom bills himself as a protector of wildlife, so you wouldn’t think he’d take water from baby salmon and give it to almonds, pistachios or alfalfa — especially when California was just drenched with the wettest three-week series of storms on record, writes Times columnist George Skelton. But Newsom and his water officials still contend we’re suffering a drought.

Julie Su, who oversaw California unemployment agency amid fraud wave, nominated U.S. Labor secretary

President Biden has nominated Julie Su to be his next Labor secretary, setting up the former California labor chief to become the first Asian American to run a Cabinet department during his presidency. Su could face a tough confirmation fight: Republicans have raised concerns about her role overseeing California’s unemployment insurance office during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the state paid out billions in fraudulent claims.

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