Ever since 2020, the people who run elections in our Commonwealth and our country have been sounding the alarm.
Despite running “the most secure election in American history,” according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, election officials are being targeted for harassment by citizens who challenge that statement.
If that wasn’t enough, election officials now have to worry about politicians interfering with their jobs, as well as new colleagues who embrace theories about widespread election fraud, according to an online survey for the Brennan Center for Justice.
Before the 2020 election, 52 percent of respondents were “not at all worried” about interference by political leaders in how the job was done, while only 13 percent were “very worried.” Fast forward two years, the numbers have flipped to 36 very worried and 14 not worried at all.
On top of that, 52 percent of election officials surveyed indicated that they are very or somewhat concerned that incoming election officials might “believe that there was widespread voter fraud during the 2020 elections.”
States United Action, a nonpartisan group tracking the trend of candidates who deny the results of the 2020 election and are running for office in 2022, released a report in early February confirming those fears. The report noted that 51 election deniers are running for Governor in 24 states; 11 deniers are running for Attorney General in 10 states; and 21 deniers are running for Secretary of State in 18 states.
“The anti-democracy playbook is simple: change the rules and change the referees, in order to change the results,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of States United Action, in a statement. “With extreme candidates running on election lies as a campaign issue up and down the ballot, it’s never been more important to elect leaders from both sides of the aisle who respect the rule of law and the will of the voters.”
According to the New York Times, many of the election deniers are running in solidly red states where it is less likely that their actions could tilt a presidential election. However, others are running in states won by Biden, including Arizona, Michigan and Nevada.
The Pennsylvania Secretary of State, who certifies elections, is appointed by the Governor. While local election officials oversee the counting of individual ballots, secretaries of state set the tone for how elections are conducted, while also educating voters, auditing election results and ordering recounts.
Acting PA Secretary of State Leigh Chapman and the department also work to promote the integrity of the electoral process, which is being challenged by the exodus of election workers.
The Brennan Center survey showed that one in five election workers said they are likely to leave their jobs before 2024.
“There’s a crisis in election administration,” said Larry Norden, the senior director of elections and government at the Brennan Center. “[Election administrators] are concerned, and they’re not getting the support that they need.”
The poll was conducted over two weeks in early February and gathered nearly 600 responses from local election officials. While 75 percent of respondents indicated that they are fairly well satisfied with their job, only 63 percent indicated that they were very likely to continue serving in their position.
The most common reasons presented were that “too many political leaders are attacking a system that they know is fair and honest” and that the job “adds a lot of unnecessary stress.”
Almost a fifth of election administrators surveyed in the Brennan Center poll say they’ve been threatened because of their job, and more than half of them say they are worried about the safety of their colleagues in future elections.
At least half of the election directors in Pennsylvania have departed since 2020.