Shasta County Picks an Elections Novice as its Next Registrar

The Shasta County Board of Supervisors has selected a former prosecutor with zero relevant experience as its next elections chief. Wednesday’s vote was 3-2 in favor of hiring Tom Toller. Mary Rickert and Tim Garman cast the no votes.

Toller will replace longtime Shasta County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen, who was recently forced to retire because of health issues. Toller — who described the inner workings of the Registrar’s Office as “somewhat of a black box to me” — was chosen over Allen’s top deputy Joanna Fransecut, a 16-year department veteran.

Toller may not know much about elections, but he does support hand-counting ballots, a controversial idea backed by the board’s far-right majority. The state has already banned hand-counting in places like Shasta. However, Toller has suggested he would support a lawsuit seeking to overturn that law.

This isn’t the first time the board has passed up an experienced official for an ideological partisan. Last year, Board of Supervisors Chair Patrick Jones blocked the county’s retired public health director Donnell Ewert, an epidemiologist, from taking an open seat on the Shasta Mosquito & Vector Control District’s governing board. Instead, supervisors appointed an alt-right conspiracy theorist who claimed mosquitoes were being equipped with “flying syringes” to mass vaccinate populations without consent.

The November election is less than five months away, and the consequences of hiring a neophyte could be huge. 

“I'm terrified for the county, I'm not going to be surprised if the state ends up stepping in,” said Garman.

"Would you trust a pilot who has never driven a plane before to take you across the country? I don't think you would, neither would I,” he added. “So now we have someone coming in to run the elections office who has zero experience running an election. I don't trust him... Not personally, but professionally. He has no experience, and I think we're in trouble.”