State and local election officials face threats and intimidation, driving experienced workers out of the profession, a panel of election officials told a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday. Conspiracy theories have fueled a more hostile environment for election workers, which has led many to quit, creating more challenges for the inexperienced new leaders, the top election officials from two battleground states testified at a U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing on threats to election administration. Democratic and Republican election workers have been the targets of “threats and abusive conduct,” Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said.
Senators stressed the bipartisan nature of the issue, and neither members of the committee nor the election administrator witnesses – which included state officials from Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nebraska and the Rutherford County, Tennessee, administrator of elections — mentioned former President Donald Trump or his unfounded attempts to discredit the 2020 election results that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Al Schmidt, the Pennsylvania secretary of the Commonwealth, a Republican and the state’s highest ranking election official, described a vicious cycle. Experienced elections officials’ resignations left less experienced workers in charge. “They’re more likely to make errors and make errors in an environment where everything is perceived as being intentional and malicious and seeking to change the outcome of the election,” he said. Schmidt said the difficulty in retaining election workers and recruiting new ones is “one of the biggest challenges” in running elections.