According to a poll released Wednesday, one in four electoral officials and nearly two-thirds of those in big cities have received violent threats after the 2020 election, and nearly one in five are planning to quit their jobs before the next presidential election.
The poll was the fourth since 2018 by the Elections and Voting Information Center at Reed College in Portland and the Democracy Fund, a non-partisan foundation in Washington, DC. It found that nearly 40% of electoral officials who can retire plan to do so before 2024, and a significant group cited the political environment and concerns about their personal health or safety as reasons to retire.
Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor to the Democracy Fund and former election compliance officer in Maricopa County, Arizona, said at an online news conference that the poll confirmed anecdotal reports from election officials.
“We know our election officials are understaffed,” Patrick said. “They have insufficient resources, undervalued and are now under attack.”
“It’s just a full-throttle attack on elections and democracy in Michigan”
Harassment was highest in the West, where nearly 40% of election officials said they had been threatened. It was also more common in large jurisdictions, and nearly two-thirds of respondents said the attacks were politically motivated.
“The conspiracy narrative is pervasive and election officials have to deal with it in many, many places,” Patrick said.
The poll, conducted between June 21 and September 22, included written responses sent online or by mail from 912 local election officials. More than 3,000 were invited to participate.
More than half of the country’s election officials are elected, many as county clerks or archivists who divide their time between holding elections and registering official documents such as estate deeds or marriage licenses. In small jurisdictions with fewer than 5,000 voters, more than two-thirds are elected.
Due to the high number of voters in major cities, 2% of local electoral offices serve half of the country’s voters. Urban offices, in places like Maricopa County, have dozens of full-time electoral staff, while nearly a third of all offices and more than half of offices with 5,000 or fewer voters do not have a single full-time employee dedicated to elections. According to the poll, three-quarters of local election officials serve only 8% of voters.
“The average election official will be an individual serving in a one-man office in a small town in Michigan or Wisconsin,” said Paul Gronke, Reed College political science professor and director of the college’s election center. The average voter, meanwhile, lives in a county with more than 75,000 voters.
Small offices have seen the biggest increase in election-related workloads in recent years. In large jurisdictions, local election officials have long reported spending nearly all of their working time on election-related matters, but in 2018, election officials in areas with fewer than 25,000 workers reported spending only about a third of the time. their time in electoral matters.
That share skyrocketed to 55% in 2020 and only dropped to 46% in 2022 for a small jurisdiction. The leap in 2020 could be attributed to states that have historically relied heavily on in-person voting by switching to ballot papers due to the Covid pandemic, but Gronke said continued higher demands in 2022 are likely due to persistent demands for record by electoral skeptics.
Role of electoral conspiracies
Over the past two years, state and local election officials across the country have received time-consuming registration requests for ballot images, election procedure documents, and various spreadsheets or databases. The vast majority of the approximately 100 most recent record requests to the Oregon Secretary of State, for example, are related to electoral conspiracies over voting machines.
Gronke said those constant requests for records are contributing to the officials’ choice to leave their jobs. Nearly one in five of polled election officials plan to leave before 2024.
“For a lot of people, it’s just too much of a challenge,” Gronke said.
The poll also found that election officials are concerned about new laws affecting their jobs. More than half said their state legislature has passed laws since 2020 affecting the election administration, but half of the officials surveyed said lawmakers did not consult them before passing those laws.
This included laws that made it easier to remove people from early voting lists in Arizona and Florida, harder for voters to register to vote by mail in Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and Texas, and to reduce ballot boxes in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Indiana, according to a roundup from the Brennan Center.
Other states, including Oregon, which passed a law in 2021 allowing election day postmarked ballot counting, have passed laws that broaden voter access. These laws also impacted election officials, who had to change procedures and in some cases open additional polling stations or safety deposit boxes.
In several states, including Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada, people who don’t believe the 2020 presidential election were legitimate are in a tight race for the post of secretary of state, the statewide position responsible for conducting the election. .
Michigan Republican Secretary of State candidate Kristina Karamo falsely believes former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, falsely claiming that those involved in the January 6, 2021 uprising were leftist activists pretending to be Trump supporters. Last month, you filed a lawsuit to block absentee voting in Detroit, Michigan’s largest heavily Democratic city.
but failed to prove allegations of fraud. He will face Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Tuesday.
Patrick, of the Democracy Fund, said she was very concerned about Arizona, where the secretary of state is responsible for writing an electoral procedures manual that has the force of law and directs how counties run elections. Mark Finchem, a Republican state representative who participated in the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol, is running for the post of secretary of state. The governor and the attorney general of Arizona must approve the electoral procedures manual, and the GOP candidate for governor Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh, the Republican candidate for the office of attorney general, are also election deniers.
Gronke said he was also concerned about Georgia and Pennsylvania, which both have close matches and “suboptimal” laws for mail order processing. Pennsylvania, in particular, does not allow election officials to begin validating ballot papers by mail until election day, which means results are likely to drop slowly when voting operators confirm that voters have signed their envelopes. electoral.
“I’m afraid people will declare victory on election night when not enough votes have been counted,” Gronke said.
In the long run, Patrick said the impact of disinformation and disinformation on future elections will depend on where the election deniers are elected. A lone county commissioner fomenting electoral conspiracies may be bad, but a whole list of electoral deniers would be far more dangerous, he said.
“As long as we don’t have a large number of them elected in any state, we can still move towards 2024,” said Patrick. “We may limp slightly, but we should still be able to emerge on the other side and have free and fair elections.”
This story was first published in Advance’s sister outlet, the Oregon Capital Chronicle.
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