For the first time in its history, Alaska will conduct a statewide election primarily by mail because officials worry they lack the time to gather the people and paper needed to conduct an in-person election in June.
In Michigan, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum says she fears increased animosity toward election officials is contributing to the shortage of poll workers needed for local elections in May.
And around the country, election officials are racing to place advance orders for ballot paper, registration cards and mail-in ballot envelopes.
The supply chain and staffing shortages that have plagued the rest of the US economy have come to elections, putting a spotlight on the behind-the-scenes logistics of keeping democracy functioning.
“In November, everybody is going to need everything on essentially the same timeframe,” Amy Cohen, who runs the National Association of State Election Directors, said during a recent congressional roundtable discussion on the supply-chain problems.
It’s not just paper.
Quest for federal dollars
Voting experts say the supply-chain disruptions and the scramble to hire recruit poll workers underscore the need for a reliable stream of federal funding to avert big problems in November.
On Monday, Biden released a budget proposal that includes a big bump: $10 billion in election assistance funding over 10 years, including a call for free postage on mail-in ballots.
In a statement, Epps-Johnson praised Biden’s budget request and urged Congress “to follow suit” and approve the funding.
How to help
Wondering what you can do to help? Signing up to serve as a poll worker on Election Day is one option.
In a recent interview with CNN, Thomas Hicks, chairman of the US Election Assistance Commission, argued that working the polls gives Americans a unique vantage point on elections, particularly those who view the system with skepticism.
“They’ll see it from the inside. They’ll see that there’s no man behind the curtain trying to manipulate the vote,” he said. “It’s your neighbors down the street, your schoolteachers, your pastor. These are the folks who are serving as poll workers. It’s a part of doing their part for our democracy.”
In Georgia, Fulton County election chief Rick Barron became one of the highest profile election officials in the state following the 2020 election.
As he prepares to leave, Barron is looking back on his tenure running elections in Georgia’s most populous county. Among other things, he’s highly critical of recent laws that impose greater restrictions on voting and allow for partisan takeovers of local election offices.
“There are elected officials being led around by the nose by some extremists and conspiracy theorists,” Barron said on CNN over the weekend. “They lack the courage to stand up to them.”
And he warned that more election officials could be on the way out. “The institutional knowledge is going to be lost,” he added.
You need to read
- This Politico story on why redistricting has broken down in four states.
- Supreme Court biographer and CNN legal analyst Joan Biskupic’s piece on the justices’ opaque process for handling conflicts of interests — newly relevant following the disclosure of Ginni Thomas’ texts about overturning the 2020 election. Thomas, a conservative activist, is married to Justice Clarence Thomas.
- This story on the Justice Department’s decision to sue one Texas county over its redistricting plan. Fredreka previously wrote about the debate over this map in a story about the loss of Black political power in the South.