Three for clerk-recorder: Natalie Adona, Paul Gilbert and Jason Tedder run to replace Greg Diaz
Special to the Sierra Sun
Three candidates are vying to become the next Nevada County clerk-recorder/registrar of voters — Natalie Adona, Paul Gilbert and Jason Tedder.
Incumbent Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters Greg Diaz isn’t running for reelection.
The election is June 7.
Natalie Adona, the current assistant clerk-recorder/registrar of voters, said she’s running for two reasons: she loves Nevada County and its voters, and she believes she has the qualifications and experience to do the job.
“I come in with a lot of knowledge about the way elections work, and I have substantial experience in how specifically this office works,” Adona said. “I think having someone with my experience to maintain and improve upon all the good work that this office has already done for our citizens is really important.”
Adona has served as the assistant clerk-recorder under Diaz since October 2019, and Diaz has endorsed her for the upcoming election. She was born on Travis Air Force Base in Vallejo, receiving her bachelor’s in political science at UC Berkeley. Adona began her career in election administration training in the Bay Area, training poll workers. She spent 15 years working on election policy issues, as an advisory board member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Task Force, a constitution and bylaws officer, and co-chair of California’s ballot design committee.
As assistant clerk-recorder, Adona worked to improve the county’s vote center worker training program and modernize its election management systems. Her approach to the job of clerk-recorder would come down to two things: feedback from the public, and data driven evidence.
“The county is very politically engaged,” she said. “A lot of our citizens care about elections quite a bit.”
This interest in elections, she said, underlines the need to follow all the laws and processes correctly.
Election fraud has become a hot topic across the nation, including in Nevada County, leading to a newfound interest in races for positions like secretary of state — the chief election official. While election fraud happens, Adona said, it occurs in such low numbers that it would not decide any outcomes. During the last election — the attempted recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom — she said only three people attempted to defraud the system in Nevada County, which she reported.
“There are a number of people who unfortunately believe that our elections are fraudulent and to my mind don’t always understand the process by which we run things,” Adona said.
In January, people supporting the Board of Supervisors’ recall were accused of forcing their way into the elections office after officials asked them to leave because they were not wearing masks, leading Adona and administrative assistant Suzanne Harden to file temporary restraining orders barring them from the office. A judge later issued a permanent restraining order against one of three people.
Despite the incident, Adona said she extended an open invitation to those with doubts about election fraud to come see for themselves.
“I would encourage people who have questions and who want to see the process to come observe,” she said.
Adona would rely on data to inform any changes she might make as clerk-recorder.
“You don’t want to just change services on a whim,” Adona said. “You want to have some evidence backing up your decision that it is actually going to work, and it actually will serve the public better.”
Elections make up only a fraction of the work a county clerk-recorder does on a regular basis. The rest of that work surrounds organizing and providing the documents that people need to go about their lives. If elected, Adona said she’d prioritize the “seamless continuation of services” above all else.
“I think that the public, when they come in, they just want to get what they’re looking for, right?” Adona said. “‘I just want my birth certificate, I just need to update my fictitious business statement, I just need to vote.'”
While Adona agrees with much of current election policy, she said there were aspects that she’d improve. The office is not one that makes policy, and Adona said her job would be to implement the law as written, regardless of whether she agrees with it.
“This is a nonpartisan office,” Adona said. “You follow the law, and you do the work of the people.”
Adona said she’s the most qualified candidate.
“I will not be learning on the job with the essentials,” she added.
Paul Gilbert, founder and president of Citizen Auditors of Nevada County, believes that what’s at stake in this election is “election integrity” itself.
“If the people cannot trust the vote, then everything is broken,” Gilbert said. “Election integrity and transparency are critical to a functioning society.”
Gilbert established Citizen Auditors of Nevada County in September. It’s a small group of anonymous Nevada County residents who review the county’s voter rolls and produce reports on the issues they find.
Now retired, Gilbert worked in the information technology field for most of his career. As a senior IT manager in charge of a major power line between Oregon and California, he gained experience with network security, filing annual reports on his department’s progress preventing what he called “nefarious actors” from accessing data. Gilbert plans to bring his IT experience to his duties as clerk-recorder.
“Having a good, strong background in the IT field is critical,” Gilbert said. He describes himself as “highly analytical,” exemplified by his work with Citizen Auditors.
In March, Citizen Auditors released a report titled “Analysis of the 2020 General Election,” which detailed what he termed discrepancies the group found between the vote count recorded in the June 4, 2021, voter roll, and the vote count recorded in the tabulated results from the November 2020 election. The group sent its report to the Board of Supervisors.
In the report, Citizen Auditors calculated a difference of over 3,000 unexplained in-person and absentee votes between the two vote counts, about 5% of the total votes.
“This percentage is way too high for this election to be considered an accurate vote of the people,” the report states.
In a response published in April by the Nevada County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, Diaz said the discrepancies between the number of votes recorded in the voter roll and the election results stem from the fact that they represent two different points in time, and were therefore derived from two different sets of voters. Diaz said that the number of active registered voters at the time of the June 2021 voter roll decreased by over 3,000 compared to November 2020, from around 75,000 to 72,000.
Gilbert said a major motivation for him running is voter list maintenance. The report asserts that the county is non-compliant with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). Gilbert said that HAVA requires the county to remove anyone who misses three consecutive federal general elections from the voter roll.
“Our current administration should already be doing this,” he said. “The fact that they are not is testament to why they have failed.”
But, barring death, mental incapacity, or incarceration, the law only allows voter registration agencies to initiate the process of removing a voter from the voter roll once they have reason to believe that the voter changed addresses and no longer lives in the jurisdiction.
Gilbert also opposes the vote by mail program, which he said allows people to “manipulate the vote.” He doesn’t necessarily think the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, but said that it was “full of irregularities that make its results unusable and invalidated.”
“Would (President Joe) Biden still have won? I don’t know,” he said. “But I believe there is definitely room for improvement. If we don’t believe anything about the 2020 election, we are doomed to repeat errors and keep repeating them. I think we need to learn from our mistakes.”
Gilbert said he is nonpartisan, and believes that he is the only truly nonpartisan candidate.
Like Adona, he underlined that the role of clerk-recorder is to abide by existing laws. However, he said, if it were within his power, he would return to the paper ballot, eliminating electronic equipment from the electoral process. The data from the electronic tabulators, he said, cannot be verified, and is vulnerable to manipulation.
“What if we come to realize that there really is only one way to have a true and accurate vote and our next step is to eliminate machine-counted, machine-tabulated ballots?” he said. “That modernization means taking a step backwards and doing it all by hand?”
During his time in the Navy, Jason Tedder was responsible for keeping track of tens of millions of dollars worth of weaponry. He knows the value of maintaining records.
“I was the person who made sure that all of those things were 100% accountable,” Tedder said. “Not just 99%, not 99.99%. If I was missing a single bullet, I could have gotten in huge, enormous trouble.”
Tedder moved to Nevada City when he was 2 months old. He studied law and political science at Sierra College. He started military boot camp in 2005, and worked his way up to Navy firecontrolman in charge of his ship’s self-defense system.
The information Tedder handled in the military was often highly sensitive in nature. To receive security clearance, he said he had to undergo extensive background checks and psychological profiles to ensure he could be trusted.
“Making sure we have someone trustworthy in there is very important, and that’s why I’m running,” Tedder said. “I don’t think we have that with the other candidates.”
While in the Navy, Tedder was in charge of several different divisions, and many of the people he worked with were citizens of other countries. He said that his experience taught him how to navigate government bureaucracies and act as a liaison between different groups of people, similar to how the county clerk-recorder serves as a liaison between the hired staff of the county and the citizens.
Though he has no experience running elections, Tedder feels that his experiences working with people have prepared him for the duties of clerk-recorder.
“People are trying to hammer me with this idea that you have to have a JD, and you have to have all these other things,” Tedder said. “It’s just not the case. This is a leadership position, a managerial position.”
Tedder said that he has the humility to know when he makes mistakes, and doesn’t feel he’s above the law, another value which the military impressed upon him.
“Following the rules is a skillset I have that people neglect,” he said. “We get casual, we get complacent.”
On the topic of election fraud, Tedder said that he has seen “nothing credible” to suggest fraudulent voting is a significant issue in Nevada County, though he acknowledged that there is some degree of election fraud everywhere.
At the same time, Tedder said he would like to enhance the transparency of the electoral process. He thinks the cameras in the ballot counting room should be higher quality and closer to the action, and that the county should save the recordings. He also wants to improve the viewing areas, which he said don’t allow spectators to see what people are doing on the balloting computers.
“It is their right to see as much of that process as possible,” Tedder said. “So I want to make sure that we get some more glass in that room. I’m going to open that room up and get some of those dark corners out of there.”
Another issue Tedder said he wants to address is his claim that Nevada County is the second to last county in California when it comes to reporting election results.
“It’s kind of embarrassing to our county that, here we are, one of the smaller counties in the state, and we’re second to last year after year,” Tedder said. He wants to make vote counts available in real time as the county tabulates them.
Ultimately, Tedder decided to run because, in a county that has become highly divided over elections, he thinks he’s someone everyone can trust.
“I’m the kind of guy who can get along with everybody,” Tedder said. “I’m hoping I can help mend some of this division by just making this one thing, this one thing, something that everybody trusts.”
Shira Moolten is a freelancer with The Union
Name: Natalie Adona
Occupation: Assistant clerk-recorder/registrar of voters
Name: Paul Gilbert
Occupation: Retired from IT, now self-employed Citizen Auditor
Hometown: San Francisco Bay Area
Name: Jason Tedder
Occupation: Veterans community advocate and volunteer
Hometown: Grass Valley
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