Twenty percent of local election officials are “very” or “somewhat unlikely” to continue serving in those jobs in the 2024 presidential election, according to a new survey pointing to a sense of unease among the public servants running America’s elections.
The survey, published by the Brennan Center, puts data to anecdotal reports that politicians’ attacks on the election system have spurred an uptick in turnover among election workers.
According to the survey, performed by Benenson Strategy Group, one in six local election officials reported experiencing threats, and more than half of those cases were not reported to law enforcement.
Nearly one in three respondents said they knew of at least one election worker who’d left their job at least in part due to fears for their safety, increased threats or intimidation, and the vast majority of election officials surveyed, three in four, said they felt threats against them had increased in recent years.
The survey came more than a year after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, itself fueled by months of lies by then-President Donald Trump about election officials conspiring to steal an election.
And those threats have continued.
“I think if you’re involved in election fraud, then you deserve to hang,” Shawn Smith, an influential conspiracy theorist on the “Big Lie” scene, said last month after claiming to have evidence of criminal conduct by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D).
Notably, more than half of the Brennan Center’s survey respondents said they were concerned that incoming election officials might buy into the “widespread fraud” narrative applied by Donald Trump and others to the 2020 election results.
They have reason to believe as much: Tina Peters, a county clerk in Colorado who has aligned herself with Smith, was indicted Wednesday for a scheme that allegedly involved criminal impersonation and misleading state officials who were updating her county’s election machines. The alleged scheme “set in motion the eventual distribution of confidential information to unauthorized people,” a Colorado grand jury said.
The survey did find that most election officials enjoy their jobs, and that respondents mostly agreed that they became election officials in the first place because “it’s an opportunity to serve my community” and “I want to ensure that the election process runs as it should.”
Among the 20% of respondents who said they were unlikely to serve in future elections, the most common reasons given were that “too many political leaders are attacking a system that they know is fair and honest,” at 33%, “my job as a local election official adds a lot of unnecessary stress,” at 30%, and “I am reaching retirement age,” at 29%.
The survey was based on 596 interviews of local election officials, conducted online between Jan. 31 and Feb. 14. The margin of error was 3.95%.