In addition, 77% of those surveyed said the harassment is increasing and that they need more support from federal and local governments, a recent report shows.
One in six election officials surveyed have experienced threats and 50% have been threatened in person, according to a report by Benenson Strategy Group, a consulting and strategic research firm. In addition, 77% say these threats have increased in recent years, and that they need more support at the federal and local levels.
However, more than 50% of threats against local election officials go unreported. In fact, only 46% of those surveyed said they report threats to law enforcement; of those that are reported, 89% are to local officials and 22% to federal and state ones.
"This trend of violent intimidation has resulted in a wave of officials stepping away from public service, which puts our entire democracy in danger," Boise, Idaho Mayor Lauren McLean said in a recent statement that outlined the harassment she's faced.
Social media spreading falsehoods
Local election officials say social media is making their jobs more difficult and dangerous, according to the report. In fact, more than three in four surveyed (77%) want social media companies to do more to stop the spread of false information.
A majority of those surveyed (95%) also believe social media is responsible for the spreading of false information while 64% believe this situation has made their job more dangerous.
“The reality of social media as a driving factor in our civic life is not new, but increasingly it’s used to intimidate people through the spread of misinformation, personal attacks and physical threats that target you and your family,” Mayor Jake Spano of St. Louis Park, Minnesota told the National League of Cities.
Retention problem coming soon
Despite multiple challenges, most local election officials surveyed said they enjoy their jobs and nearly a third say they are completely satisfied with them, the report shows. The average satisfaction rating was 80%.
However, there is a potential retention problem in 2024, driven primarily by politicians’ attacks on the system as well as stress and retirements, the report says. When asked why they are unlikely to continue to serve as a local election official, the top two answers were "too many political leaders are attacking a system that they know is fair and honest" (33%) and "my job as a local election official adds a lot of unnecessary stress" (30%).
“Everyone needs an inner circle of support to get through the rough spots,” Mayor Sharon Weston Broome of Baton Rouge, Louisiana told the NLC. “And you have to remember why you did this. That keeps you pressing on during the trials and tribulations.”
Benenson Strategy Group conducted 596 interviews from Jan. 31-Feb. 14 among local election officials of all political affiliations across the country. The interviews were conducted online using a list provided by the Brennan Center for Justice.
For more information from the report click here.
Andre Claudio is an assistant editor at Route Fifty.