‘A Critical Juncture’: How Many More Threats and Baseless Claims of Fraud Can Election Officials Take?

Election Bureau Director Albert L. Gricoski, left, opens provisional ballots alongside election bureau staff Christine Marmas, right, while poll watchers observe from behind at the Schuylkill County Election Bureau in Pottsville, Pa. on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (The Republican-Herald Photo via AP/Lindsey Shuey)

By Patrick Berkery

March 11, 2022

A new survey finds that the current political climate is taking a toll on election officials in the US.

Citing increased threats of violence and rampant allegations of voter fraud, local election officials across the US are understandably reaching their breaking point and considering leaving their jobs. 

A new survey of nearly 600 election officials of all political affiliations from the Brennan Center for Justice found that 1 in 5 are somewhat or very unlikely to stay in their jobs through the 2024 presidential election.

The survey also found that 1 in 6 elec­tion offi­cials have received threats because of their job, with 77% saying that the threats have increased in recent years. 

Despite overseeing in 2020 what the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency determined was the most secure election in American history, Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud put election officials across the country in the crosshairs of those looking to undermine democracy. We’ve seen the fallout in Pennsylvania with the state GOP’s “forensic investigation” of 2020 voter information, and horrifying threats made against former Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt and his family.

Schmidt was in charge of the 2020 election in Philadelphia. In response to the poll, he told Reuters that the US has reached a “critical juncture” with elections.

“The consequence of this threat environment is that you have more people leaving and they’re replaced by less experienced election administrators or people who want to undermine confidence in our system of government,” Schmidt said.

Some other key findings from the survey:

  • More than 80% of officials said social media companies are responsible for amplifying false election information, with nearly two-thirds saying it had made their jobs “somewhat” or “a lot” more dangerous.
  • 30% of offi­cials know of one or more elec­tion work­ers who have left at least in part because of fear for their safety, increased threats, or intim­id­a­tion.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 local elec­tion offi­cials are concerned about facing pres­sure to certify elec­tion results in favor of a specific candid­ate or party.
  • More than half worry that incoming local election officials might buy into the “widespread fraud” narrative of the 2020 elections.


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