States fret over 2024 election as threats rise and workers quit

Election administrators called on lawmakers Tuesday to increase federal support ahead of 2024 elections as threats and violence against election workers increase.

One in six election officials have experienced some kind of threat, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Rules Committee, citing a 2022 poll conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice.

“These dedicated public servants should be able to do their jobs without fear or intimidation,” she said during a hearing of her committee Tuesday afternoon.

Klobuchar said threats to election workers stem in part from disinformation, especially when spread online or through social media.

“In the face of these challenges, it is important as ever that we continue to support election officials as they do their jobs to uphold our democracy,” Klobuchar said.

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told lawmakers that she’s seen a rise in election misinformation since 2020, increasing election distrust.

“Election administrators then bear the associated burdens of frivolous lawsuits, excessively burdensome public information requests, disruptive voters and poll workers and outright threats and harassment,” Toulouse Oliver said.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said threats toward election workers are a “consequence of the Big Lie,” referring to former President Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

“It’s not just a matter of capacity that’s being lost as a result, but the tremendous talent and experience that’s lost while threats and challenges to our elections are only on the increase,” he added.

Toulouse Oliver said that updated policies and procedures, such as not publicly disclosing election workers’ home addresses, can help solve some security concerns, but that many states lack funding to upgrade physical safety and cybersecurity measures.

“The federal government can help states and their election administrators by providing consistent funding streams,” Toulouse Oliver said.

President Biden’s recently proposed budget for fiscal 2024 includes $5 billion in new election assistance funding that would be allocated over 10 years. However, Republicans are seeking spending cuts, and it’s unclear if election support could face the GOP chopping block.

Rising violence and threats have contributed to many poll workers leaving their positions. Thirty percent of officials surveyed by the Brennan Center knew of one or more election workers who left at least in part because of safety concerns, increased threats or other intimidation.

Ranking member Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) said challenges to election integrity have increased due to cybersecurity issues and distrust from foreign and domestic adversaries.

“As these new issues arise, states are still tasked with the important work of recruiting, training and retaining poll workers,” Fischer said. “This has become more difficult in recent years as many of the most dedicated election workers and volunteers have retired.”

Robert Evnen, Nebraska’s secretary of state, told lawmakers the state has responded to “heightened interest” in elections and the need to attract more election officials by increasing outreach to encourage residents to become poll workers or observers on Election Day.

“And what we find is that as they become more familiar with the process itself, their confidence in the integrity of the process grows,” Evnen said. “I think it’s very important that we recognize their work, and that we express appreciation and gratitude to them for it.”

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