Poll Workers/Registrars challenges in CT and Nationally

A recent article in WhoWhatWhy outlines challenges across the country:  Big Lie Fallout: Experts Fear Threats Will Cause Poll Workers to Quit <read>

Election integrity experts are sounding the alarm that many election workers will leave their positions on the front lines of democracy unless they are protected from the types of threats and harassment that hundreds of them experienced after the 2020 election.

According to a 2022 survey from the Brennan Center for Justice, 1 in 5 local election officials are “very” or “somewhat unlikely” to continue serving through 2024. The survey stated that “politicians’ attacks on the system, stress, and retirement plans are the primary reasons they plan to leave their jobs.”

“There’s an air of menace that causes people to say, ‘Oh, the heck with this, I don’t want to do this anymore,’” said Elaine Kamarck, founding director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institute.

Kamarck added that there seems to be a concerted effort to terrify election workers. Many people who believe that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, she said, feel that election workers participated in “funny business” and counted the votes incorrectly, even though repeated investigations have found no evidence of that.

“It is intimidation. It’s the sort of intimidation that happens in banana republics,” she said. “It’s a disaster. I mean, it’s just an awful, awful problem.”

Kamarck said that the purpose of the individuals sending these threats is to “strike fear and try and scare you away from doing your job.”

And that’s exactly what they have done.

“What’s going on is terrifying,” said Jan BenDor, who worked for 18 years as an election administrator in Michigan.

The Department of Justice identified more than 850 incidents of threats and harassment targeting election workers, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service.

This atmosphere of intimidation caused the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) to call on all leaders to denounce threats of violence against election workers and officials. A report it adopted in February of last year showed the 2020 election cycle to be the “most challenging in recent memory,” where “unrelenting misinformation” led extremists to threaten and endanger election workers.

Kamarck described this as a significant assault on democracy.

“What they’re trying to do is undo the will of the people, and it is one of the most serious threats we’ve ever faced,” she said.

It may be different in Connecticut with perhaps worse results in too many towns:

We have not heard much about about open harassment, yet the job is getting ever tougher with massive amounts of FOI requests to some registrars and with town government,  in many cases, ignoring calls for more funding, hours and staffing for overworked officials. No wonder they are quitting. In those situations it is a wonder anyone knowledgeable would step up or step in to help.

We hear that between Nov 2021 and a couple of months ago over 40% of Connecticut Registrars of Voters have resigned! That’s a lot more than the 1 in 5 thinking about it in the Brennan Survey; that does not include those already not running again in Nov 2022; and experienced registrars are even more important to our elections that experienced poll workers. At least poll workers, by law, must be paid for every hour they serve.

 

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