Newsom Signs Bill Banning Hand-Counting in Most Local Elections

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed AB 969, which prohibits counties with 1,000 people or more from hand-counting election ballots. The legislation was authored in response to Shasta County’s hand-counting plans, approved less than a year ago in a 3-2 supervisors’ vote. 

That divided vote was the result of baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election. In January, the board of supervisors canceled its contract with Dominion Voting Systems, which had been falsely accused of switching Trump votes to Joe Biden. 

“It's not just impractical to hand-count, but it harms the election process. It will cost more and slow down our election results significantly,” said Newsom’s communications director Erin Mellon (ABC News). “Unfounded conspiracy theories have undermined our elections. California is focused on ensuring free and fair elections.”

AB 969 was an urgency measure, meaning it takes effect immediately. But Board of Supervisors Chair Patrick Jones said the county will still tally its next election votes by hand.

“We made this decision before the legislature acted,” Jones said. 

At this point, a legal fight between the county and state looks inevitable. It would increase the price tag for Shasta, which has already spent more than a million dollars on the switch.

In addition to restricting hand-counting, the new law will prevent counties from canceling voting system contracts in the absence of a state-approved alternative.