WASHINGTON — As the 2024 presidential campaign cycle ramps up, election officials and workers are facing ongoing threats.
This month alone election offices in five states - California, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Washington state - received suspicious letters including some that contained fentanyl.
On Capitol Hill – several election administrations shared their stories with Congress.
“We don’t feel safe at our work because of the harassment and threats that are based in lies,” said Adrian Fontes, Arizona Secretary of State.
“We have now lost about 70 election directors or assistant election directors in our 67 counties,” said Al Schmidt, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Those officials said that’s the new reality for election offices after the 2020 election. They told Congress these threats are now leading to higher turnover rates.
Recent polling by the Brennan Center and Issue One shows 1 in 5 election officials will be serving for the first time in the 2024 elections.
“When you have people running elections who have less experience running elections, they’re more likely to make errors and make errors in an environment where everything is being perceived as intentionally and malicious and seeking to change the outcome of the election,” said Schmidt. “Even though it’s really a reflection of their lack of experience.”
Administrators are also concerned about the emerging threat of artificial intelligence next year. They worry about the potential of deepfakes that could spread inaccurate information about polling places or hours.
“Social media alone has the capacity to spread these kinds of deepfakes and lies far and wide with alarming speed,” said Fontes.
They’re now urging congress to approve more money to help upgrade voting systems for federal elections.
“These jurisdictions run our federal elections with federal candidates on federal ballots using federal rules without any sustained, predictable federal support in the form of funding. This is very concerning,” said Fontes.
Some election officials say they’re also working more with federal law enforcement and national security agencies to track, identify, and address potential threats.
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