There is no shortage of jobs for local election officials in Michigan, the same is true in Pennsylvania. Wisconsin too.
After facing threats and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath, and now the potential for further punishments in certain states, county officials running the elections are retiring or withdrawing early. The once silent work of the electoral administration has become a political minefield thanks to the baseless claims of widespread fraud that continue to promote many in the Republican Party.
The exits raise an urgent question: Who will take these jobs? Ingham County, Michigan Clerk Barb Byrum has an idea.
“These conspiracy theorists are in it for the long haul. They are in this to completely unravel our republic, and they are looking into these election administrator positions, ”said Byrum, a Democrat. “They are playing the long game.”
It is difficult to quantify exactly how many election officials across the country have left their posts and why, as exits are generally not counted. Retirements are also common after presidential elections.
But in places that do track such information, along with anecdotal accounts from county officials, it is clear that many have left recently due to the newly discovered partisan grudge around the jobs and threats faced by many local poll workers before the election. November and after. while former President Donald Trump and his allies challenged the results.
About a third of Pennsylvania county election officials have left in the past year and a half, according to a spokesperson for the state county commissioners’ association, citing heavy workload and rampant misinformation related to among the reasons. voting.
“It was particularly challenging last year with all the misinformation and angst out there,” said Lisa Schaefer, executive director of the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association. “And none of that was caused by county elections officials.”
The chief executive of an employee association in Wisconsin said more than two dozen employees have retired since the presidential election and another 30 employees or their deputies resigned at the end of 2020. Thirteen have left since the beginning of this year. In Michigan, Byrum said he didn’t know of a precise number of job openings recently, but was able to recite several seasoned election officials who left recently.
Jobs in local elections are being vacated as Trump’s false claims of fraud persist within the Republican Party and provide a platform for his loyalists to launch campaigns to become top election officials in various swing states.
In Georgia, US Representative Jody Hice, a Trump recruit who voted to overturn the presidential results in the House of Representatives, challenges Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who has come under fire from his own party for defending the president’s victory. Joe Biden.
Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem, who was at the Jan. 6 rally in front of the Capitol and is a leading supporter of a partisan review of ballots in Maricopa County, is running for secretary of state. Former Nevada legislator Jim Marchant, who has clung to the conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from Trump, is campaigning to replace Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who has repeatedly denied allegations of voter fraud. . Cegavske cannot run again due to term limits.
Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for Common Cause, which advocates for greater voter access, said that while state offices have more power, local officials generally have a lot of discretion on how to resolve common Mother’s Day problems. elections, such as long lines, voter list problems, or problems with voting machines.
“If you have an electoral official who does not want to expand access to the ballot, who finds that democracy disturbs him, he will not solve the problems and then they will multiply,” he said.
Careers for county positions receive much less attention than those for state positions, and many of those positions will not be elected for a year or more. Still, partisanship has already infiltrated the process.
Republicans in Michigan chose not to re-nominate a Republican member of the state electoral board after he voted to certify Biden’s victory in the state. In Scott County, Iowa, a Republican board decided not to hold a special election after the abrupt resignation of the top election official, a Democrat, and appointed a Republican instead.
The exodus comes as Republicans in several states pursue legislation that imposes new fines or criminal penalties on local election officials or facilitates their removal, as part of the Republican campaign to rewrite the rules for voting and administering elections.
A new law in Iowa imposes a $ 10,000 fine on election administrators for a technical violation of election rules. A similar law in Florida could result in fines of $ 25,000 for election supervisors if a ballot box can be accessed outside of early voting hours or left unsupervised.
Republicans in Texas have pushed for a measure to make it a crime for local election officials to send unsolicited absentee ballot materials to voters. Georgia’s new electoral law allows the Republican Party-dominated legislature to appoint a board that can replace a local election official.
Wendy Helgeson, president of the Wisconsin Association of City Clerks and Greenville Village Clerk, said the new sanctions, along with the charged atmosphere around poll work, could make work unpleasant for some.
“It is difficult to convince someone that it is a good way to give back to the community when you are afraid of going to jail,” he said. “It is increasingly difficult to get people to work in government as a whole.”
Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York.
The Associated Press coverage of voting rights is supported in part by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content.