Members of a U.S. Senate panel and election administrators raised a bevy of concerns Thursday about the challenges elections officials will face this fall, saying problems ranging from a lack of paper to coordinated misinformation campaigns could affect confidence in U.S. democracy.
A bipartisan panel of current and former elections officials and experts told the Senate Rules and Administration Committee that state officials face threats of physical violence, while dealing with misinformation, supply chain challenges and funding shortfalls — making the administration of this year’s midterm elections more difficult.
Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, listed those developments at the start of the hearing. She highlighted threats that have led Colorado officials to receive active shooter training and obtain bullet-proof vests, with morale among elections administrators nationwide worryingly low.
“In light of these challenges, we must support the election officials working on the front lines of our democracy,” Klobuchar said.
In addition to relatively new concerns related to holding elections in a pandemic, ranking Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri noted foreign and domestic adversaries persist in targeting election infrastructure and spreading online misinformation.
Violence sparked by online sources
Damon Hewitt, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said misinformation remained an issue in administering elections.
Online misinformation inspired the racist killer of 10 Black people at a Buffalo grocery store last weekend, and has led to threats against elections bureaucrats, he said.
Recently passed state laws limiting ballot access in the name of election security also arose from unfounded misinformation, Hewitt said. The laws, passed in many Republican-led states since the 2020 elections, lend legitimacy to theories that elections are not secure, he added, worsening the risk of violence.
“They are giving those who want to sow violence, doubt and misdirection in the election process … political camouflage for their threats and their attacks,” he said. “Put simply, these laws undermine our democracy and its promise.”
Wesley Wilcox, the Republican supervisor of elections for Marion County, Florida, said he also had been subjected to threats, despite the state’s strong performance in the 2020 election cycle.
“Florida was touted as the gold standard and model for voting in the 2020 election,” he said. “But lately the accolades have waned and high-fives for job well done have ceased. Instead, they’ve been replaced by threats of violence against us or our families.”
There’s not even enough paper
One new problem for this election cycle is the supply chain backlog, which has limited elections offices’ access to a basic but crucial item needed for elections: paper. Read more