While federal and state government set up the rules about elections, our elections are run at the local level, usually the county. While the title may differ (they may be called clerks, recorders, registrars) the job is insanely complicated. The election official (EO) must wear multiple hats. Here are four:
Hat 1) IT (information technology) manager. Not only must the EO understand the complicated equipment used in elections, but the person must also understand cybersecurity. I just finished a class on election security, and wowza…it’s intense. You would not believe the number of federal agencies and nonprofits and private firms who are dedicated ONLY to fighting off cyberattacks on election systems. I would list them but your eyes would roll back in your head and you’d fall off your chair.
Hat 2) The EO must also be an HR expert. They must recruit, train, manage, and evaluate election workers, who are called judges in MN. How many election judges are needed? In 2020 approximately 775,000 people worked during the election nationwide. Many are experienced, but people like me are newbies and need lots of training and hand-holding. The election official must train lead judges who then supervise the rest of us, hopefully catching our mistakes. (See previous blog post: Humans make mistakes!)
Hat 3) The EO must have legal knowledge. Yes, your county will have an attorney, but in today’s more litigious elections, EOs need to know the rights of the county, the voters, and anyone else involved. If lawsuits claiming fraud are going to be a normal part of each election cycle, the EO needs to understand election law.
Hat 4) The EO must be a communications expert. Why? Because they are losing the communications battle. Wild claims of voter fraud were thrown around both after the 2016 and 2020 elections, and many EOs didn’t know how to respond, or even that they should. In retrospect, many now see that they need to do a better job of explaining how elections work. Sadly, those EOs who try to fight the disinformation are getting worn out.
In a NPR article, Carly Koppes, a Republican election official in Colo., said it’s been almost impossible to change people’s minds about election fraud. “There’s just so much that is incorrect that they just keep repeating and repeating and repeating,” Koppes said. “And then as soon as I have absolutely blocked off that path with actual correct information, then they just move that goal post. And they keep just moving the goal posts.” This is a must-read article, as those fraud conspiracies are coming to a town near you. https://www.npr.org/2022/07/05/1109538056/election-deniers-are-spreading-misinformation-nationwide-here-are-4-things-to-kn
Do you know who runs your elections? Check with your county. Find out their name. Give them some credit for doing their best with a difficult, difficult job that is so important to this country.