Nothing screams ‘secure elections’ like high turnover of local election officials and workers in key states.
According to The Hill, that’s exactly what’s going on, after a ‘surge of local election officials’ have left their posts in recent years. This could leave polling locations with understaffed and inexperienced teams (who might not know all the nuances behind scanning machines and which tables the extra ballot suitcases are stored under?).
UCLA election law expert Richard Hasen is “quite worried” about the turnover of election officials and workers nationwide, but says it’s “not surprising” given how the 2020 election played out.
“Some of the language that’s been used against these officials has been really shocking,” he told The Hill. “And why would you stay in a job that is high-stress to begin with, when you’re not going to be all that well-paid, and then to face this kind of abuse? People have to be really committed to democracy to want to stay in these jobs. And it’s asking a lot.”
Does that mean people who weren’t committed to democracy were counting the ballots in 2020?
A Brennan Center survey of local election officials taken in March and April, around the same time many White House candidates were jumping into the race, found that 1 in 5 are expected to be serving in their first presidential election in 2024.
The rate of turnover found in the survey is equivalent to “one to two local election officials leaving office every day since the 2020 election.”
Nearly a third said they’d personally been “abused, harassed, or threatened” because of their jobs, and nearly three-quarters said they felt threats have gone up in recent years. Nearly a quarter said they personally know at least one election official or worker who’s left the job due to threats, harassment or fear for their safety. –The Hill
“Your dedication to public service … can only take you so far, when day after day you have people showing up in your office, or you have phone calls or emails accusing you of not doing everything you can to provide the best election experience, but also secure elections,” said Lisa Bryant, chairwoman of the department of political science at California State University, Fresno, and an expert with MIT’s Election Lab.
Perhaps not covering windows in cardboard, blocking election observers, faking burst pipes to delay voting for two hours, and a national judiciary that dismissed the vast majority of election fraud cases over ‘lack of standing’ (i.e. no personal harm was suffered, therefore no jury gets to see your evidence), would go a long way to instilling voter confidence.
In 2021, the Biden DOJ formed an Election Threats Task Force, citing a “significant increase in the threat of violence” against the ‘election community’ during and after the 2020 election.
While research hasn’t concluded that threats are driving workers out of the field, the turnover appears to be driven by various sources of burnout, such as interfacing with voters, responding to public records requests, fielding media inquiries and dealing with the public scrutiny.
“The job of an election official has gotten increasingly difficult over the last few years, and it has not been matched by how they’re being compensated or whether they have the resources to do all of the additional things on their plate,” said Rachel Orey, senior associate director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project.
Maybe if America had a national voter ID, perhaps election workers might feel more comfortable in their jobs?