‘Potential crisis for democracy’: Threats to election workers could spur mass retirements

“State and local election offices fear they are set to face a wave of retirements and resignations after confronting the dual burdens of a pandemic and a rise in conspiracy-fueled threats.

new survey of over 200 local election officials — the people responsible for running polling places, maintaining voter rolls and counting and certifying the results of elections — found that roughly one-third were either very or somewhat concerned about “being harassed on the job” or “feeling unsafe” at work during the 2020 election cycle. Nearly 4-in-10 respondents in the survey, which was conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice and Bipartisan Policy Center, reported the same level of concern about “facing pressure to certify election results.””

““What is normally a fairly obscure administrative job is now one where lunatics are threatening to murder your children,” said Al Schmidt, one of the three members of Philadelphia’s city board of elections. Schmidt, a Republican, announced in January that he will not seek reelection to his post in 2023. “That is not something anyone anticipates or signs up for.””

““It’s a big challenge and, I think, a potential crisis for democracy,” said Lawrence Norden, the director of the election reform program at the Brennan Center, a left-leaning think tank. “The real question is: Who replaces them when they leave?””

““I think that the big danger here is especially if those positions — which, again, are typically pretty obscure — are targeted to replace those professional election administrators with partisan political operatives whose job it is to undermine confidence” in the electoral system, Schmidt continued.”

“Election administrators are also concerned about new laws in several states that exposed election officials to more criminal and civil penalties for wrongdoing. A bipartisan pair of prominent election attorneys warned in a New York Times essay that the laws could be used to intimidate election officials or punish them for honest mistakes.

“The people that are involved in elections are civic-minded individuals who just want to be part of a democracy, to make it fair and equitable. Nobody’s there for the pay,” said Roxanna Moritz, a Democrat who recently retired early from her position as Scott County, Iowa’s chief elections official, citing a lack of support. “I think that the criminalization in these states are going to cause people to say ‘Okay, it’s time for me to leave. I could make a mistake.’””


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