And more than half of the election workers who responded — 54% — said they were concerned about the safety of their colleagues in future elections, according to the survey of nearly 600 local election officials done on behalf of the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s Law School.
The report, the second recent survey of election officials by Brennan, underscores how much the harassment and threats surrounding the 2020 election have affected local election officials and could shape the workforce in the years to come.
“To me, election officials were really the heroes of the 2020 election,” said Lawrence Norden, Brennan’s senior director for elections and government. And, he said, the survey indicates “we’re going to have some significant difference in who’s running elections in 2024.”
Other reasons people plan to depart these positions before the next presidential election: stress associated with the job (30%) and reaching retirement age (29%).
Some states have begun to make moves to further protect election officials from threats. Earlier this month, Oregon legislators passed a bill that makes it a crime to harass an election official, punishable by up to a year in jail and a possible $6,250 fine.
This week, a Colorado legislative panel advanced a bill that would provide extra security to the state’s election chief and other statewide elected officials. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, has been vocal about the avalanche of death threats she’s faced since the 2020 election. She pushed for the new law.
Around the country, legislators in at least eight states have introduced bills recently to better protect election workers or more harshly punish offenders.
Federal officials also have begun to take action, through a Justice Department task force established last year.
About 17% of the local officials surveyed for the Brennan Center said they had been threatened because of their jobs. More than half of them said they had not reported the threats to law enforcement.
The survey by the Democratic-aligned Benenson Strategy Group was conducted between January 31 and February 14 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.95%.
The Brennan Center used a list of 9,252 county/parish election officials in the United States for survey purposes. The Brennan Center purchased the list from the U.S. Vote Foundation. There were 9,117 election officials on the list who had deliverable email addresses, and the Brennan Center contacted everyone on the list with a deliverable email address and invited them to participate in the survey.
In the end, 596 local election officials of all political affiliations from across the country completed the survey, Brennan officials said.