In December of 2021, Nevada County, CA resident Amy Young submitted an open records request to her local elections office requesting the following records: digital ballot images, audit logs, tabulator tapes, and the cast vote records. After repeated denials from county officials, Young took her grievances to her county’s Board of Supervisors as a last resort:
The Board of Supervisors was either uninterested in Young’s request or were moving too slowly. So, on August 17, 2022, just two months after addressing her Board of Supervisors but only one week before the election records could lawfully be destroyed, Young filed a petition for a writ of mandamus and requested an injunction to preserve the in-question records. The county finally turned over the cast vote records that had been requested but was still refusing to hand over the other records. Despite San Francisco County publicly posting many of these records, Nevada County officials claimed these records were exempt from the Public Records Act despite not having any identifiable information on them.
After five months of litigation, the court ordered Nevada County hand over a sample of an audit log Young’s request sought. The judge also allowed the county to redact any information and submit a “generic description of the redacted data if Respondent believes there is a legal basis for non-disclosure of the information.”
The registrar of voters in Nevada County, Natalie Adona, handed over a sample page to the Court with what the county deemed appropriate redactions but offered no explanation as ordered by the court. The whole page was almost entirely redacted:
Young countered by submitting the audit logs from Stanislaus County, which uses identical voting machines, to show the anonymity of the data as justification to withhold unnecessary redactions:
According to the Sierra Thread:
In response to Young’s request for a court order to disclose the public records, Nevada County argued to the Court that they did not possess the requested records and that Young was somehow an election denier and, simply by making these requests for public records, exposed the County officials to potential threats of violence by third-parties. At the conclusion of the litigation, the Court ordered Natalie Adona, the Nevada County official charged with conducting elections, to release all the public records requested by Young, except for digital ballot images.
After the Court issued the order, Adona took to the airwaves to assert that the success of Young’s lawsuit against the Nevada County election office resulted in the disclosure of “boring documents.” Such a statement begs the question of why the election office and Adona fought Young so fervently for nearly two years and expended tens of thousands of dollars attempting to prevent the legal disclosure if the public records requested by Young were just “boring documents.”
During the litigation, the Nevada County election office stated to the Court that “ensuring fair elections is the most fundamental of government interests.” Pruett agreed and added that “the County’s duty is actually to conduct fair and transparent elections pursuant to both election law and the CPRA. Thankfully, the Court concluded that transparency is paramount in connection with local elections.”
The Judge then gave the county until July 21, 2023 to turn over all election records related to Young’s request.
On October 3rd, however, the Judge also ruled that the county must pay $85,000 in legal fees and costs to Young. This is a bittersweet victory: on one hand, Young and her fellow Californians are now able to get the transparency guaranteed to them by California and US law. But on the other hand, it cost her the potential of losing her legal fees and costs if unsuccessful, while also crippling the Nevada County taxpayer who will foot the bill not only for the county’s legal defense, but now the plaintiff’s costs as well.
EPIC WIN! Nevada County Must Pay $85,000 for Withholding 2020 Election Records!
“Clearly, there is something within the data that they did not want the people to see, and now that the county has been forced to comply, numerous data engineers are currently scrutinizing the… pic.twitter.com/aAnj2MrxKL
— nick moseder (@TheNickyMo) October 9, 2023
In a public statement after the September 29th hearing, Young wrote:
“These costs could have all been avoided if the Board of Supervisors and county counsel had taken this issue seriously when I addressed them in public comment on June 14, 2022.”
As reported by The Gateway Pundit, California adopted AB 969 last month after filing the legislation just weeks after Shasta County’s Board voted to move to hand-marked, hand-counted paper ballots. AB 969 essentially mandated that county’s use state-certified election machines to tally votes, thus taking away the ability for a county to do a manual count if it is over 5000 registered voters (which is all but a few counties in California).
Hat tip Nick Moseder