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Josh Daniels became a clerk and grew to love the intricate minutiae of running an election, as well as finding creative ways to help vulnerable populations access the ballot. It was rewarding to improve some important functions of local government,” Daniels stated. The voting conspiracies were too much for Daniels to handle. It was like the Twilight Zone
in government service. Every day, you wake up to the same thing. No matter how much data and information you share or how many concerns that you address, the same thing will happen every day. “
Daniels is part of a large group of voting officials who have decided to leave the profession since 2020 and the tension and pressure that followed Donald Trump’s loss in that election. “
Daniels is part of a large group of voting officials who have decided to leave the profession since 2020 and the tension and pressure that followed Donald Trump’s loss in that election. In some battleground states, more than half of the local election administrators will be new since the last presidential race, according to a new report from the democracy-focused advocacy group Issue One shared exclusively with NPR before its release.
“Local county clerk is not a glamorous job,” Daniels said. “We don’t pay people enough in local election administration jobs to warrant public scrutiny. This is especially true when the scrutiny is misguided or misinformed. “
The Issue One report focused on 11 western states and found that the problem of voting official turnover is particularly acute in the region’s
swing states, where conspiracies have flourished.
In Nevada, 59% of the state’s county voting officials are new since 2020. In Arizona, 55%.
It’s not clear how these numbers compare to previous cycles — data on trends in election administration is notoriously hard to come by — but experts have been saying for years that they worried about a mass exodus driven by the polarized environment.In total, more than 160 chief local election officials — nearly 40% of the region’s officials —
have left their positions in the 11 states that Issue One tracked. Experts expect to see the same trend in other states, as NPR and recent polling indicate that many in these positions fear for their safety or their co-workers’. Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes told NPR, a Democrat from the state, that he is considering a “declaration on election administration emergency”. This would shed more light on this issue and underfunded elections departments. He added that threats are experienced by both Republican and Democratic jurisdictions.
“Many of those who have been harassed or threatened are Republicans.” Fontes stated that a former Republican county recorder in Arizona had her dog poisoned. This is not a political issue. It is about the survival of our constitution. “
Since 2020, some states have passed laws aimed at addressing threats to election officials, and the Department of Justice has set up a specific Election Threats Task Force, but intimidating and threatening language from voters often doesn’t rise to the level of criminal offense, so election officials note that law enforcement can’t solve the issue on its own.
Election brain drain Practically speaking, the turnover presents a troubling brain drain.
Experts say the job of an election official has grown in complexity in recent years, with county clerks now needing to be well-versed in cybersecurity, the foreign adversary threat landscape and communications, in addition to the normal tasks that go into putting on an election. In many counties, particularly smaller ones, the running of elections is not their full-time job. It sounds simple but months of planning are required to reach this goal. “
Issue One found that the officials who left brought with them more than 1,800 years of experience. “
Issue One found that the officials who left took with them more than 1,800 years of experience.Which experts say presents a conundrum: New voting officials make more mistakes than seasoned ones. So the exodus brought on by election conspiracies may beget more conspiracies, as first-time honest mistakes are treated like evidence of malfeasance.In 2022, a printer issue at some voting centers in Maricopa County, Ariz., became the center of false narratives. In 2020, it was user error by a clerk in Antrim County, Mich. (which was quickly corrected).“The 2024 election will be even more scrutinized, which means that these government election officials have to be on their game at every turn and with every detail, and there is no room for error,” former Utah clerk Daniels said. Former Utah clerk Daniels said that the lack of expertise will lead to some balls being dropped during the 2024 elections. “