Attacks Against Election Officials Are Taking A Toll

Attacks Against Election Officials
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Photos: Brennan Center\Ethan Miller\YouTube

The public servants who run our elec­tions are alarmed. Between Janu­ary 31 and Febru­ary 14, we had the Benen­son Strategy Group poll nearly 600 local elec­tion offi­cials about their jobs. Their responses should set off warn­ing bells across all levels of govern­ment and provoke action from Congress.

More than half of the respond­ents said they’re concerned about the safety of their colleagues. Nearly one in three know at least one colleague who quit their job in part or entirely because of safety concerns, increased threats, or intim­id­a­tion. And of those who have been threatened, more than half have exper­i­enced it up close and personal.

Why is this happen­ing? Well, the Big Lie, of course.

Nearly two in three local elec­tion offi­cials we polled said that false inform­a­tion about elec­tions makes their jobs more danger­ous. Ninety-five percent blame social media compan­ies for allow­ing their plat­forms to peddle outright lies and conspir­acy theor­ies.

It should­n’t come as a surprise why these public servants are look­ing over their shoulders when you hear some of their stor­ies.

Racist harass­ment. Death threats. Private personal inform­a­tion released online. In one fright­en­ing story from Geor­gia, someone showed up at the door of an elec­tion worker to make a “citizen’s arrest.” But the elec­tion worker didn’t live there anymore. It was her grand­mother’s place, and her grand­mother was under­stand­ably terri­fied. Incid­ents like these have even led some elec­tion offi­cials to flee their homes for safety.

For a more visceral taste of what elec­tion offi­cials have faced since the 2020 elec­tion, watch our video on it.

But elec­tion offi­cials also warned of another threat as we charge full steam ahead toward Novem­ber’s midterms and then on to the 2024 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion: polit­ical inter­fer­ence.

Nearly one in five respond­ents worry they will face pres­sure to certify elec­tion results in favor of a specific candid­ate or party. These polit­ical attacks are taking their toll. Twenty percent of those polled plan on leav­ing their jobs before the 2024 elec­tion. Of those, a third cite polit­ical lead­ers’ dishon­est attacks on the legit­im­acy of our elec­tion systems as one of the top reas­ons.

Despite the hard­ships they face, most elec­tion offi­cials enjoy their jobs, explain­ing they took the job to serve their communit­ies and make sure our elec­tions run smoothly and fairly. And if we want these honest public offi­cials to stay in their jobs, they need help from Wash­ing­ton, DC. More than three out of four elec­tion offi­cials believe the federal govern­ment should be doing more to support them.

It’s time for Congress to take these threats against the people who run our elec­tions seri­ously and protect them against the viol­ent conspir­acy theor­ists and partis­ans who continue to under­mine the legit­im­acy of our elec­tion systems.

There are many ways to do this. Members of Congress can set aside funds that can be used for things like home and office secur­ity for elec­tion work­ers. They should also make it a crime to intim­id­ate elec­tion work­ers for the purpose of inter­fer­ing with the vote tabu­la­tion process. And finally, they should make it a crime to “dox” elec­tion work­ers, or reveal their personal inform­a­tion, with the intent to threaten or intim­id­ate them.

It’s the least Congress can do for these unsung heroes of our demo­cracy who are under very real attack.

By Michael Waldman\Brennan Center

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