California Election Workers Navigate Challenges Amid Threats and Turnover

California Election Workers Navigate Challenges Amid Threats and Turnover
Photo by Elliott Stallion / Unsplash

Since 2020, California's election workers have faced unprecedented challenges, from the lingering impacts of COVID-19 to heightened tensions fueled by election fraud conspiracy theories. This period has been tumultuous, marked by significant turnover and incidents of threats and harassment against election officials.

Turnover and Safety Concerns

The California Voter Foundation reports a 15% decrease in election officials between the November 2020 election and July 2021. Many cited threats, harassment, and stress as reasons for leaving. Over half of the state's counties have seen changes in their registrar of voters since 2020, compared to a 17% turnover in the previous four years.

Local Challenges and Responses

In Shasta County, Registrar Cathy Darling Allen announced her retirement due to health reasons exacerbated by the stress of the job and local intimidation tactics. Similar incidents, including the discovery of suspicious envelopes and a fentanyl-positive package, have added to the strain on election officials across Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Yuba counties.

Preparation and Resilience

Despite these challenges, more than a dozen counties reported sufficient staffing for recent primary elections. Collaborative efforts with law enforcement and health departments, such as those in Orange County, have helped ensure worker and voter safety. Counties like San Bernardino have increased stipends and hired additional staff to support election preparations.

Continued Struggles and Legislative Response

Some counties, like Mono County, continue to struggle with recruitment and retention of election staff despite wage increases. Legislative efforts to enhance worker safety, such as allowing officials to shield their addresses, have been slow to impact. Local decisions, like Shasta County's move to exclusively hand-count ballots, have also stirred controversy and division.

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges, election officials remain dedicated to upholding the integrity of elections and ensuring that every voter's voice is heard. Continued support and resources are crucial as officials navigate ongoing pressures and responsibilities, striving to maintain public trust amidst unprecedented political and social challenges.

Subscribe to The Arias Journal

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.