POLITICS

More election workers plan to leave jobs before 2024 election amid threats, conspiracies, new report finds

Rick Rouan
USA TODAY

Election officials fed up with threats, conspiracy theories and the potential for political interference in elections could soon be heading for the exits.

A new survey from the Brennan Center for Justice found that 20% of election officials are unlikely to stay in their jobs for the 2024 presidential election, up from 6% who previously said they would leave before the 2022 midterms.

The biggest reasons for their exodus: attacks from political leaders on the U.S. election system and high stress in a job increasingly subjected to harassment and derision from conspiracy theorists who claim the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

A chain of public officials, from secretaries of state down to local election supervisors, clerks and poll workers, are charged with administering elections in the U.S.

More:Election workers faced new threats after 2020 election. Experts fear it will drive them away

Since the 2020 presidential election, those officials have faced an onslaught of threats and intimidation that already are driving some of them out of the profession of administering American elections.

In some cases, they have faced death threats. In January, the Justice Department announced indictments against a Texas man accused of imploring people to "exterminate" elections officials and a Las Vegas man who allegedly told a Nevada state election employee "I hope your children get molested."

Experts have warned that those threats could scare off election workers, making it harder to administer elections.

“We’re potentially losing good people who would otherwise want to stay,” said Larry Norden, senior director for elections and government at the Brennan Center for Justice.

The Brennan Center survey polled 596 election workers between Jan. 31 and Feb. 14. While election workers generally are satisfied with their jobs, according to the poll, an ever-larger share expects to leave.

About one-third of respondents said political leaders’ attacks on elections were a factor in deciding whether to quit. About 30% cited unnecessary stress among the top two reasons they are considering leaving their jobs.

Election workers Sheila McDonough, left, and Kathleen Reid chat while waiting for voters at the American Legion Post 35 poling place, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in South Portland, Maine.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed by the Brennan Center said threats against election officials have increased in recent years, and more than half said they are somewhat or very concerned for the safety of their colleagues.

The Justice Department has reviewed at least 850 reported threats since the agency formed a task force to investigate such matters in the summer of 2021.

Election officials, though, say most threats are never reported. Of the 17% of local election officials who said they had been threatened because of their jobs, more than half said they did not report the threat to law enforcement, according to the survey.

Norden said election officials are looking for more support from all levels of government, including funding to pay for security enhancements, such as bulletproof glass and training to deal with threats.

Some states have adopted new protections for election officials, but federal proposals have not gained traction.

“At the end of the day this is a moral question as far as I’m concerned,” Norden said. “Are we protecting the people who are working for us and working to ensure that we have elections that are free and fair? Are we willing to stand up for them?”

More:Texas man charged with threatening Georgia officials; first case brought by DOJ task force on election threats