PHOENIX (AP) - Election officials told a congressional committee Tuesday they’ve received graphic threats to their safety since the 2020 election and warned that pressure on election workers is a threat to democracy.
Experienced election administrators are increasingly leaving the field as they face unsupported accusations of manipulating election results, a bipartisan group of state election officials told the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
"It’s not worth it any more for these not-very-high-paying jobs, combined with the level of threat they’re experiencing at the moment," Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who is running for governor, said.
Hobbs has at times had round-the-clock security due to threats from supporters of former President Donald Trump who falsely claim that his loss in Arizona was marred by fraud. She described threatening phone calls to her office and said critics tried to get her husband fired from his job.
"Continued inaction, in the face of threats to undermine our democracy, will have long-term consequences for the future of our country," Hobbs said.
"Let’s be clear, this is domestic terrorism," said Al Schmidt, a Republican city commissioner in Philadelphia and a member of the Board of Elections. "The whole point is to terrorize, to intimidate and to coerce."
Threatening phone calls died down after President Joe Biden was sworn in but have since ratcheted back up since Trump supporters have pushed for the Legislature to review the 2020 vote count, he said.
Cybersecurity and election administration experts in the Trump administration said the 2020 election was secure, and no evidence of widespread fraud has been found. But Trump and an army of his supporters have aggressively promoted the false narrative that the election was stolen from him and have pushed for audits led by people who share their views.
Most prominently, a post-election review led by the Arizona Senate Republicans confirmed Biden’s victory in Maricopa County but spread falsehoods about malfeasance that ignored basic facts about how elections are run.
Michael Adams, the Republican Secretary of State of Kentucky said he’s faced verbal abuse from Democrats accusing him of promoting vote suppression.
An exodus of experienced election workers would have ripple effects that undermine the ability to efficiently run trustworthy elections, experts said.
"That could mean longer wait times, closure of polling places, a rise of voter intimidation and harassment at the polls and widespread loss of confidence in elections," said Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Hobbs describes harassment after 2020 election
"Two weeks after the election, armed protestors gathered outside my home and chanted, ‘Katie, come out and play, we are watching you,’" she said.
She said things only got worse from there.
"Or calling my office and saying I deserve to die, or saying, ‘What is she wearing today? So she’ll be easy to get,’" she remembered.
Hobbs painted the picture of an environment that disincentivized other election workers and volunteers from staying on the job.
"I fear that many more will reach a breaking point and decide this is just not worth it," Hobbs said.
She was joined by Republicans and Democrats from around the country, all of who had similar stories of threats.
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