Election workers on their own when facing threats, accusations of misconduct

AtlantaCivicCircle

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At the Park Tavern location in Midtown on the corner of Monroe and Eighth St.Photo credit: Emilia Weinrobe.

Early last year, Fulton County election officials dispatched a series of internal emails to top county executives asking for police protection for some election workers dealing with a barrage of threats and harassment sparked by the 2020 presidential election’s outcome.

The Fulton election officials alerted the county that the poll workers were being harassed, both at work and at home. But county officials ultimately decided not to provide the requested protection, which would have cost from $25 to $30 an hour, because a couple of the workers did not live in Fulton, the county’s former elections director, Rick Barron, told Atlanta Civic Circle. Barron’s last day on the job was April 1.  

The Fulton case is extreme, but it illustrates that poll workers are essentially on their own  when dealing with verbal and physical attacks–as well as any allegations of election-related misconduct, legal experts and elections officials say.

Statewide, election workers’ personal vulnerability, and the potential for electoral misconduct accusations, will intensify as Georgia, a key swing state, heads into the all-important midterm election season, with primaries scheduled for May 24. 

The magnitude of the problem hasn’t escaped those who oversee Georgia’s elections.

“We can’t run elections without the bread-and-butter, which are poll workers–and so the counties and the state need to really do everything we can to make sure our poll workers feel like they’re valued and protected,” Sara Tindall Ghazal, a member of Georgia’s State Elections Board, told Atlanta Civic Circle. Ghazal is the policy director for the state House of Representatives’ Minority Caucus.

“There’s so much more scrutiny of poll workers, as well as policies and procedures,” Ghazal said. “It’s hard enough to recruit poll workers under normal circumstances–and the circumstances are no longer what I would call normal.”

Atlanta Civic Circle.

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