News Roundup: The Election Worker Brain Drain

As 2024 draws nearer, there’s growing alarm about how election conspiracy theories are affecting local and state election workers — and about the implications a high turnover has for the administration of elections.

  • Since 2020, election workers have been resigning in large numbers, with one recent report from Issue One finding that more than half of local administrators in several key swing states will be new on the job since the last presidential race.
  • In Arizona, for example, 55 percent of the state’s county voting officials took their positions after 2020. In Nevada, 59 percent are new.
  • In a March survey of election officials conducted by the Brennan Center, 45 percent of respondents said they feared for the safety of their colleagues on the job, and nearly a third said they had experienced harassment, abuse, or threats at work.
  • In the same survey, 1 in 5 local election administrators said they were likely to leave their positions before the 2024 election.
  • Since it was formed in 2021, the Justice Department’s task force dedicated to addressing threats to election workers has reviewed more than 2,000 reports of threats and harassment.

The brain drain isn’t just a side effect of the election denial movement that has sought to undermine faith in our democracy. It also has the potential to exacerbate the mistrust that has grown from former President Trump’s lies about his 2020 loss. “New voting officials make more mistakes than seasoned ones,” NPR’s Miles Parks reported last week. “So the exodus brought on by election conspiracies may beget more conspiracies, as first-time honest mistakes are treated like evidence of malfeasance.”

The conspiracy-driven hunt for voter fraud has also led to disruptions in election processes. Records we reported on this week provide new details about allegations that far-right activists interfered in ballot recounts in Michigan last year. 

  • Following the passage of two ballot initiatives in that state, a right-wing group called the Election Integrity Fund and Force (EIF) petitioned for recounts. According to previous reporting by Votebeat, election officials encountered problems with some EIF challengers who had attempted to touch ballots they wanted rejected or had threatened officials with criminal charges.
  • In an email we obtained, an attorney representing public interest groups urged the Michigan Board of State Canvassers to authorize recount supervisors to direct challengers to cease any conduct that violated recount rules. 
  • According to the email, during Dec. 7 recounts in three Michigan counties, members of EIF were seen touching voting materials and equipment, standing on the “wrong side of the table” while workers were sorting and counting ballots, and threatening election officials by telling them they were committing fraud and would go to jail.

On the Records

Election Denial in Shasta County, Calif.
Records obtained by American Oversight and reported on this week by the Redding Record Searchlight shed new light on how far-right election denial has taken hold in northern California’s Shasta County, where baseless claims of fraud led the county to cut ties with Dominion Voting Systems earlier this year.

  • The records include communications between prominent election denier Mike Lindell and Kevin Crye, a member of the county Board of Supervisors’ ultra-conservative majority. They also include communications between Crye and Terry Rapoza, an activist with the far-right “State of Jefferson” movement, which seeks to create a new majority-conservative state made up of counties in southern Oregon and northern California.
  • Lindell — who supported the Board’s decision to end its contract with Dominion and even said he would cover the county’s legal fees if the state sued Shasta County for violating laws — wrote in one email to Crye: ​“As everyone is aware, we need to get rid of all electronic voting machines in our elections. … I promise, if you have any pushback, including lawsuits against you or your county, I will provide all of the resources necessary, including financial and legal, for this fight. Also, the Election Crime Bureau will be at your full disposal.”
  • We also submitted a request to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office seeking any communications officials may have had with election deniers. The office responded with a letter stating that the requested records would not be released because they are “an intrinsic part of an individual confidential law enforcement investigative files.”
  • This week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that limits the ability of local governments to hand-count ballots. Patrick Jones, the president of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, told ABC News, “If they try to stop us from hand counting, then there will be litigation.”

Other Stories We’re Following

Election Denial and Threats to Democracy
  • Wealthy GOP donor bankrolled Cyber Ninjas’ effort to get voting data, whistleblower says (Arizona Republic)
  • Voter rolls are becoming the new battleground over secure elections as amateur sleuths hunt fraud (Associated Press)
  • ‘2000 Mules,’ a key piece of election misinformation, has its day in court (Washington Post)
  • Impeachment articles against Meagan Wolfe riddled with false and misleading claims (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Battleground 2024: How swing states changed voting rules after the 2020 election (Voting Rights Lab)
  • Arizona recount law could delay certifying 2024 election, officials say (Washington Post)
  • Republican leader of Wisconsin Assembly says he won’t move to impeach state’s top elections official (Associated Press)
Voting Rights
  • Virginia election officials acknowledge voters mistakenly removed from rolls (VPM)
  • Dems say new Michigan voting rights bills strengthen democracy (Michigan Advance)
  • Full 5th Circuit to hear arguments on whether felony voting ban is unconstitutional (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • Dominion election upgrade approved for first Georgia counties (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Former representative seeks end of Kansas 3-day grace period for accepting mailed advance ballots (Kansas Reflector)
In the States
  • Even before office move is complete, Ohio Sec. of State LaRose appears to blur ethical lines (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • Youngkin takes $2M from TikTok investor despite app ban, China warnings (Washington Post)
National News
  • Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina is the leader of the House, at least for now (Associated Press)
  • Supreme Court to consider abortion pills, guns, social media in its new term (NPR)
  • Biden touts $9B more in student loan forgiveness, progress in debt relief (Washington Post)
  • Leonard Leo says he will not cooperate with D.C. Attorney General tax probe (Politico)
  • Newsom taps Emily’s List leader to fill Feinstein’s Senate seat (Washington Post)
LGBTQ Rights
  • Judges maintain bans on gender-affirming care for youth in Tennessee and Kentucky (Associated Press)
  • Nebraska approves emergency regulations regarding gender care for minors (Nebraska Examiner)
  • Nebraska lawmaker says some report pharmacists are refusing to fill gender-confirming prescriptions (ABC News)
  • Waukesha judge: Kettle Moraine teachers need parent consent to use trans students’ names (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Despite veto promise, Wisconsin Republicans bring bills targeting trans athletes, gender-affirming care (Wisconsin State Journal)
  • What gender-affirming care means to these Wisconsin families (Wisconsin Watch)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • Judge blocks 2 provisions in North Carolina’s new abortion law; 12-week near-ban remains in place (Associated Press)
  • Idaho banned abortion. Then it turned down supports for pregnancies and births. (ProPublica)
  • ‘They just tried to scare us’: Anti-abortion centers teach sex ed inside some Texas public schools (Texas Tribune)
  • Pro-Life Wisconsin files complaints with licensing agency against doctors resuming abortions (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Annual Ohio abortion report shows double-digit decrease (Ohio Capital Journal)
Threats to Education
  • Famous authors, new office, millions of bucks back anti-book banning campaign in Florida (Tallahassee Democrat)
  • New College chooses a familiar face as next president: Richard Corcoran (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Liberty University broke safety laws for years, government asserts (Washington Post)
  • Governor begins Ohio’s K-12 education overhaul despite judge extending temporary restraining order (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • What’s behind the national surge in book bans? A low-tech website tied to Moms for Liberty (USA Today)
  • West Texas A&M University receives $20 million gift for new institute to promote “Texas Panhandle values” (Texas Tribune)
  • Support for Houston ISD’s Spanish speakers has dwindled under state-appointed leader, parents say (News from the States)
  • Stricter state laws are chipping away at sex education in K-12 schools (Associated Press)
  • First Amendment advocates fight growing number of U.S. book bans (NC Newsline)
Government Transparency and Public Records Law
  • Virginia law allows the papers of university presidents to stay secret, limiting public oversight (ProPublica)
  • Kansas police chief resigns after body cam footage shows him rifling through records about himself (Missouri Independent)
  • Arkansas attorney and whistleblower claim to have proof that Governor’s Office tampered with public records (KATV)
  • Biden administration waives 26 federal laws to allow border wall construction in South Texas (Associated Press)
  • Biden administration is resuming deportation flights for Venezuelan migrants as arrivals grow (Associated Press)
  • Texas ranch owner says DPS arrested hundreds of migrants without his consent (Houston Chronicle)
  • A Texas neighborhood became a target of the right over immigration. Locals are pushing back (Associated Press)
  • Jailed by the thousands, without charges, to act as witnesses (New York Times)
Jan. 6 Investigations
  • Trump allies offered plea agreements in Georgia election interference case (Guardian)
  • A trial in Trump’s Georgia elections case will start soon — without Trump (New York Times)
  • Clarence Thomas recuses himself from Jan. 6-related case — for first time ever (Forbes)
  • Supreme Court weighs sentencing law, denies appeal from Trump lawyer Eastman (Washington Post)