Election Workers Feel Strain of 2020 Election: Survey

Election Workers Feel Strain of 2020 Election: Survey woman processes election ballots A Gwinnett County election worker processes provisional ballots at the Gwinnett Voter Registrations and Elections office on Nov. 6, 2020, in Lawrenceville, Georgia. (McGowan/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 16 June 2021 12:15 PM

Increased focus on voting integrity appears to be weighing on state and local election workers, Politico reported Wednesday.

The combination of the 2020 election cycle and the COVID-19 pandemic has officials fearful that many election workers will retire or resign, according to Politico.

A new survey of more than 200 people responsible for operating voting sites and counting and certifying election results found that about a third either were very or somewhat concerned about "being harassed on the job" or "feeling unsafe" at work during last year's elections, Politico said.

The left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice and Bipartisan Policy Center, which conducted the survey, found that nearly four in 10 respondents reported "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," Al Schmidt, one of three members of Philadelphia’s city board of elections, told Politico.

"That is not something anyone anticipates or signs up for."

Politico said no agency is tracking election worker retirements, as each state and local municipality oversees elections.

In talking with a half-dozen experienced officials, as well as reporting on growing vacancies in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Politico said many departures are being anticipated.

"It's a big challenge and, I think, a potential crisis for democracy," Lawrence Norden, the director of the election reform program at the Brennan Center, told Politico. "The real question is: Who replaces them when they leave?"

Former President Donald Trump and his allies said President Joe Biden won the election due to voter fraud.

Arizona currently is conducting an audit of 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County.

The state's GOP-led Senate ordered the audit, despite the Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors repeatedly having said the election was fair and free of any problems.

Although election workers leaving their jobs is customary after every election cycle, administrators told Politico the current climate feels different, with workers still facing threats.

"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 told Politico.

A Republican, Schmidt announced in January that he will not seek reelection to his post in 2023.

Florida’s local election supervisors met at their semiannual conference this week in Tampa, where several dozen pro-Trump protesters complained that state election laws are too lax. (Trump won Florida twice.)

Conference attendees could see signs displaying "Stop the Steal" and "Donald Trump won" outside their hotel.

Politico said a demonstrator using a bullhorn claimed conference attendees were "un-American," and that Florida should end mail-in voting.

"People have a First Amendment right, but there's people that are still buying into false statements that are out there about machines as well as about elections," Craig Latimer, a Democrat and elections supervisor for Tampa's Hillsborough County, told Politico.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has taken note of the threats on election workers.

"We have not been blind to the dramatic increase in menacing and violent threats against all manner of state and local election workers, ranging from the highest administrators to volunteer poll workers," Garland said in a speech last week. "Such threats undermine our electoral process and violate a myriad of federal laws."

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law was founded in 1995 by former law clerks to Justice William Brennan.