Leave the election workers alone — or join them

We’ve read with great concern about ne’er-do-wells upset over the 2020 ballot box results accosting or threatening election workers and municipal clerks around the country.

Such actions have increased a yearslong trend of aging election workers — typically volunteers or paid small stipends — leaving the profession.

Too few younger citizens have stepped up to replace them, leaving the complex and time-consuming task of running elections and counting votes up to an ever-smaller pool of overworked folks, even as an impatient public demands more immediate reporting of results.

Say what you will about the flurry of new voting laws moving through legislatures around the country, those changes only add complexity to an already-understaffed job.

And many clerks say some of the laws too-harshly penalize workers for doing what would have been routine work before, such as an Iowa law that fines workers up to $10,000 for even “technical infractions” of election law. Such threats of a criminal record could further discourage folks from signing up as election workers.

To lawmakers, we say poll workers should not face criminal punishment unless prosecutors can prove they intentionally participated in election fraud, laws already on the books. Many poll workers are seniors and others simply giving their time because they believe in democracy, and they shouldn’t have to fear going broke or getting jailed for making a mistake.

Instead, lawmakers should invest heavily in recruiting more election workers and training them well.

To the bullies still believing the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and taking that out on poll workers, we say back off. Poll workers don’t deserve your ire, and no one deserves harassment.

Instead, we urge those bullies to sign up as poll worker, themselves. Then they can see how it works from the inside, and see — as so many audits, reviews, and investigations have proven over the past 10 months — how poll workers protect the integrity of elections.

Joining our poll workers would help our democracy. Accosting them only hurts it.


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