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Monday numbers: A closer look at the political pressure on local election officials (and the problems it’s causing)

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“We will make sure not one single vote in this state is either cast or counted without Republican observers and attorneys in the room,” said state Republican Party chair Michael Whatley at last week’s Wake County Republican Party convention.

The pledge to ramp up political scrutiny of polling sites ahead of the mid-term elections comes at a time that election officials nationwide are raising an alarm about the polarized voting environment.

Volunteers once motivated by their love of the democratic process and a desire to serve their community now say politics in America has just gotten too nasty.

A recent survey of local election officials by the Brennan Center for Justice finds that 1 in 5 are likely to quit before the 2024 presidential election. Many say that misinformation on social media has resulted in threats and harassment, making their service much harder since the 2020 election cycle.

Others are worried about future interference by politicians.

All of this matters because it takes tens of thousands of election officials and volunteers to make sure our system operates efficiently and remains honest and fair.

For this week’s Monday numbers column, we take a closer look at the Brennan Center’s findings: [2]

1 in 5 – Share of of local election officials who say they are “very” or “somewhat unlikely” to continue serving through 2024

1 in 6 – Share of local election officials who report experiencing threats

73 – For those local election officials who have been threatened, the percentage of those threats were made over the phone

53 – Percentage of the threats that were made in person

37 – Percentage of the threats that were made via social media

77 – Percentage of local election officials who felt that threats against local election officials have increased in recent years

54 – Percentage of the threats against local election officials that have gone unreported

95 – Percentage of local election officials who agree social media is responsible for spreading false information

64 – Percentage who believe the spread of false information about elections has made their job more dangerous

77 – Percentage who want social media companies to do more to stop the spread of false information

25 – Percentage who believe their incoming colleagues might believe that widespread fraud occurred in the 2020 elections

58 – Percentage who said their job is an opportunity to serve their community

52 – Percentage who said they enjoy being involved in the democratic process

20 – Percentage who said they are very/somewhat unlikely to serve in the 2024 presidential election

Among the 20% of local election officials who said they’re unlikely to serve either in the 2022 or 2024 elections:

1 in 3 – The number who said too many political leaders are attacking a system that they know is fair and honest

30 – Percentage who said their job has a lot of unnecessary stress

20 – Percentage who said they are unlikely to serve because ‘Politics in America has become too nasty.’

57,017 – Number of poll workers North Carolina recruited through its Democracy Heroes program for the 2020 General Election (Source: NC State Board of Elections)

2,660 – Number of precincts North Carolina election officials staffed for the 2020 General Election

5.55 million – Number of ballots cast in North Carolina for the 2020 General Election

57 – Number of days before Election Day in North Carolina’s statewide primary (May 17, 2022)