Our opinion: Election post becomes treacherous

Officials in Greene County are looking for a new elections director, and it’s become an all-too-familiar task.

The latest elections director, Eric Finch, lasted in the job for just a month. During that brief time, his office had to deal with the fallout of mistake-riddled ballots being sent to county residents who requested absentee or mail-in ballots for the Nov. 7 election. Those ballots were approved and sent before Finch started on the job, and he did not elaborate on why he was departing, but it’s easy to imagine that dealing with a headache like that would make anyone want to make haste to greener pastures. Mike Belding, the chairman of the Greene County Board of Commissioners, pointed out, “He walked into a firestorm on Day 1 and tried to pick up the pieces.”

Greene is now seeking its sixth elections director since August 2020, and the county is hardly alone in looking for elections administrators. Turnover has doubled in elections offices in 2023, according to a survey from the Election and Voting Information Center at Reed College in Oregon. A large part of the reason is the threats and intimidation that elections officials have been subject to, thanks to the baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Powder-filled envelopes laced with fentanyl were recently sent to elections offices in Georgia, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state, with some containing a warning to “end elections now.” Other elections officials have been threatened with bombs, torture and firing squads. There have even been blood-curdling threats made to the children and family members of elections workers.

And, on top of all this, elections officials are generally not paid all that well. Would you like to be frequently menaced for a relatively low salary? Not many of us would.

Individuals who terrorize elections officials need to understand that there are consequences for this reprehensible behavior. An Iowa man will have 30 months in prison to ponder his mistake of threatening a worker in an Arizona elections office. And a Texas man will have more than three years cooling his heels behind bars to consider why he threatened to murder poll workers and their families. The two men were among a handful that the Justice Department has prosecuted through a special unit established two years ago to investigate and prosecute election crimes.

It’s a shame that the Justice Department has to do this work. American elections have been shown to be honest and free of fraud. And if you don’t like the outcome of an election, the best thing to do is work to persuade your fellow citizens in advance of the next one, not blame the people who counted the votes.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland put it best: “A functioning democracy requires that the public servants who administer our elections are able to do their jobs without fearing for their lives.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today