Election Workers Brace for Violence Around the Midterms

Election officials across the country are concerned with potential violence and other disruptions compromising this November’s midterm elections. Some are even quitting their jobs as Donald Trump’s allies continue to push out false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Jocelyn Benson (Michigan Secretary of State) has made $8 Million available for local clerks in order to improve election security. Angela Benander, spokesperson for Michigan Department of State, stated Thursday that more than 1,600 clerks are still at constant risk.

“I am concerned about people being disruptive,” said Sommer Foster, co-executive director of Michigan Voices. “I’m concerned about people trying to intimidate voters. I’m concerned about dis- and misinformation. It’s something that we see a lot in Michigan, and so we are doing what we can to make sure that we have systems in place to fight against that.”

Foster, who works with partners on issues like election protection, voter suppression and educating voters about their rights, witnessed election clerks in 2020 being unfairly “maligned” and “attacked.” The harassment was so stressful, Foster continued, that one former Republican election official in a suburb outside Detroit simply quit his job.

“It’s a huge loss,” Foster said. “This was somebody who was dedicated to making sure that voters had their rights protected. We are hearing about clerks being called out on the name. [by] some of these folks that are still telling lies about the 2020 election.”

Nearly half (47%) said they were harassed in the last five years by top Michigan elected and appointed officials because of their positions in local government. accordingTo a University of Michigan survey

Trump and his allies continue to attempt to overturn last year’s presidential election. Administrators across the country are concerned about safety because false claims about the allegedly stolen election raise safety concerns. One in six elec­tion offi­cials have exper­i­enced threats and 77% say that they feel those threats have increased in recent years, according to a Brennan Center pollReleased earlier in the year.

Reports claim that death threats, racism, and gender-based attacks are forcing election workers to hire personal protection, leave their homes, and sometimes even resign from their jobs.

The entire elections staff in one Texas rural county quit just 70 days prior to the midterm elections. PBS reported. For the last 10 months, local leaders in Georgia’s biggest county have been unableTo hire a permanent director to manage the Department of Registration and Elections.

Anissa Herera, the elections administrator in Gillespie County (Texas), will be taking over after the 2020 election. receivedNumerous death threats were made against her staff by far-right sources, leading to many resignations.

These experiences are so common that election clerks consider them part of their job, according to Anthony Gutierrez (executive director of Common Cause Texas).

“These election administrators keep saying that they report things to law enforcement or local DAs and nothing happens, like nobody’s being prosecuted,” Gutierrez said.

Common Cause, which provides election protection, is also exploring ways to hold those who attack election workers accountable. Gutierrez and others claim that this task has been complicated by the fact that many people in leadership positions continue to cast doubt on how elections are administered.

Last year, John Scott, Texas Secretary-of-State, was elected claimed that a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 general election was necessary to restore Texas voters’ trust in the state’s election systems. (Trump easily carried Texas.) Scott briefly representedTrump in a legal dispute over the 2020 results in Pennsylvania

For an elected state official to embrace that narrative, Gutierrez said, “really perpetuates this feeling that the people running our elections are doing something wrong, or trying to rig the elections. Just naturally, that’s going to create an environment where you’re asking for some kind of violence to happen.”

In many key battleground states, supporters of Trump’s false election claims are running for secretary of state — a position that in most states gives them the power to oversee elections — and are continuing to sow doubt about the way elections are administered.

Jim Marchant, Republican secretary of state nominee for Nevada, has been repeatedly claimedTrump stole the 2020 election and has saidIf he was in office, he would not have certified the results. Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem is the GOP nominee to secretary of state. He has called for the arrest and deportation of the incumbent Secretary of State. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat. He has proposed giving the state legislature power to accept and reject election results. Colorado’s Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters is currently underemployed. Tina Peters was a failed secretary of state candidate. indictmentOn misdemeanor and felony charges related to tampering voting equipment. Kristina Karmo, a well-known election denier, is the GOP candidate in Michigan. signedOn the Michigan Supreme Court, she filed a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election. (She is also facing unrelated allegations from her ex-husband. threatened to killDuring an altercation, their entire family was involved.

Special training is being given to certain staff members in some counties to ensure smooth running of the election process. In Arizona, the secretary of state’s office hosted tabletop exercises for county election officials and law enforcement agents meant to prepare them for worst-case scenarios, said Sophia Solis, deputy communications director for the office, in an email to Salon.

In 2020, every county in Arizona was assigned a “threat liaison officer” to help prepare for and investigate any threats that might arise, Solis said. The secretary of state staff met with county sheriffs in order to discuss harassment and threats at polling places, and to give guidance on how to handle such situations.

State Voices, which works with other organizations in pro democracy work, is also preparing to host trainings for volunteers about how to deal with disruptions at polling sites. Common Cause is also partnering with State Voices.

State Voices provided training for community members in Ohio, Colorado, and Pennsylvania to support voters and report concerns to the hotline. Elena Langworthy, the group’s deputy director of policy, said the planning and preparation seemed to work. “We had a plan in place to deal with anything that arose that was more on the side of physical violence and intimidation,” she said, “and luckily we didn’t see a [significant] number of physical incidents occur.”

Foster of Michigan Voices says that there is no solution to the problem of a shortage of election workers in many areas. This is directly attributable to the constant stream of angry threats. These workers “just want to provide a service to their communities,” Foster said, “and they’re being unfairly attacked.”