In Colorado, Trump supporters seeking evidence of 2020 election fraud have bombarded some county offices with so many records demanding that employees believe they cannot do their core tasks.
Some election workers in Nevada have been followed to their cars and threatened.
Concerns about violence on Election Day prompted Philadelphia officials to install bulletproof glass at their polling place.
With ten weeks until the 2023 midterm elections, dozens of state and local officials tell News that election preparations are being hampered by onerous public information requests, ongoing threats against election workers, and dangerous misinformation campaigns waged by activists still interested in running for president in 2020.
According to election officials, the activities, many of which are coordinated at national and local levels, vary from confronting election officials at local government meetings to training volunteers to contest the vote-counting process on Election Day.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon told News that he is concerned that the activities reflect the widespread belief among 2020 election opponents that “the guys handling elections in this county or this city are up to no good.”
‘A weaponized instrument’
Election officials stated that records requests, intended under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to make the vote-tallying process transparent to the public, are increasingly being used to disrupt the system by election deniers.
Activists advised attendees on how to acquire election-related documents and led them to templates to make the forms easier to file at the “Moment of Truth Summit,” a two-day meeting of election doubters hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell last week in Springfield, Missouri.
“Help your county! Get your cast vote records right now! “One of the calls to action urged supporters to request voting logs that included information on each ballot cast. One speaker extolled his efforts, stating, “I have one of the best followings in the world… and I told people to start filing public records requests for this material everywhere. And lo and behold, they could obtain hundreds upon hundreds of these records with time and collaboration.”
In Wisconsin, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell told News that just days after the meeting, a Wisconsin activist made one of these requests. This long inquiry demanded precise and comprehensive information and directed how local officials could acquire the data. McDonell said he received up to 50 similar inquiries in two days.
According to Elizabeth Howard, senior counsel in the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center for Justice appears to be a coordinated effort. This nonpartisan think tank monitors election rules.
“Election officials are getting a copy-and-paste job of a FOIA request from some centralized institution,” she added. “They can see that in the FOIA request because there’ll be bracket, enter county here, close bracket — and the requestor doesn’t put in the county name.”
According to election officials, many of the onerous requests seek ballot records, information on voting machines, and even the personal information of election workers – information that election offices will not supply.
“They’ve turned into a weaponized instrument against us, preventing us from doing our job,” said Trudy Hancock, president of the Texas Association of Elections Administrators.
According to Marc Early, the state of Florida’s supervisor of elections, all of the requests make it more difficult to prepare the state for the next midterm elections.
“We are required to react to these records requests in a fairly proactive manner — yet the volume and type of these requests are such that it’s tough just to maintain track of it all,” Early explained. “And it’s become a major issue because we have elections to hold but commitments to treat these demands seriously. And we are, but it is a challenging atmosphere in which to live.”
In Michigan, a former state official has accused election officials of misconduct. Former state Sen. Patrick Colbeck inundated the township with so many records requests, according to the clerk of Michigan’s Canton Township, that the clerk invited Colbeck to his office to see the township’s election management system in action in the hope that Colbeck’s concerns about voter fraud would be alleviated.
“We spent hours with him,” said clerk Michael Siegrist of Colbeck.
The visit, however, did not satisfy Colbeck, who Siegrist said is now requesting that the Michigan township provide the programming files for the election administration system, something authorities say they cannot do.
According to Siegrist, such files are “not subject to public disclosure under Michigan’s FOIA laws because they are both proprietary and a blueprint for election programming, and if distributed, could result in individuals having a resource to hack future elections.”
On the other hand, Colbeck told News that the information he seeks is timestamp information related to casting vote records already provided by the municipality.
“This timestamp data would be very useful for an analysis of cast vote data, he said, adding that “the election results database and associated log files generated by the Dominion Election Management System software are not examples of source code, any more than a Microsoft Word document generated by the Microsoft Word application is source code.”
The disagreement, according to Colbeck, is “only one example of concerted statewide opposition over FOIA requests.”
According to the township, it is still working through its backlog of records requests, eight of which have come from Colbeck alone.
‘Make your voices heard.’
Washoe County, Nevada, officials have likewise been inundated with “numerous” and “onerous” records and information demands. However, their election workers have also faced threats and intimidation.
Election workers have been followed to their cars and intimidated with phrases like “Traitors are dealt with,” according to county spokesperson Bethany Drysdale.
Drysdale claims that by mid-June, shortly after the Nevada primaries, the harassment had become so severe that the Washoe County voter registrar resigned, prompting the Washoe County Commission to propose a support plan to help county employees who are “unfairly publicly attacked, harassed, or disparaged by members of the public or political organizations.”
Republican Women of Reno members slammed the attempt, asking in an online post, “Is it 1984 in Washoe County?” The organization has been organizing local election challenge efforts and training poll watchers, asked others to attend county commission meetings, and “show up and let your voices be heard.”
Philadelphia officials are so frightened about the November elections that they have built bulletproof glass at their ballot-processing center.
David Clements, a former college professor who rose to national attention by making unfounded voter fraud charges, has been attending town hall meetings and challenging officials in Otero County, New Mexico, regarding the 2020 election.
“We want to let you know this issue isn’t going away,” Clements said last week at a county commissioner meeting. “No matter how pointless you think this practice is, I’ll be here every two weeks.”
Clements, suspended from New Mexico State University last year, has traveled nationwide to urge election audits in 2020. Lindell returned to New Mexico a week after appearing at Lindell’s “Moment of Truth Summit,” when he was hauled out of a Doa Ana County commission meeting after asking the commissioners to examine election-related charges.
“This has been raised numerous times, and there is simply no truth to it,” a commissioner told Clements.
Clements also openly requested the resignation of county clerk Amanda Lopez Askin at the Doa Ana meeting.
Askin told News, “It was practically a joke to me.” “I’m serving my community, and over 50,000 people voted for me. He only serves to fuel my determination.”
Askin has had to disclose many death threats to the FBI, and she says the abuse she receives from election denial groups is the new normal.
“It’s disappointing, and what they don’t comprehend is that I’m a fellow New Mexican,” she explained. “I was raised and born in this nation and am the most vocal opponent of voting fraud.”
“It’s awful that he’s bothering public forums and public officials with unsubstantiated claims,” said Alex Curtas, communications director for the New Mexico secretary of state.
When News contacted Clements for comment, he provided a set of survey findings from the conservative polling firm Rasmussen Reports showing the percentage of probable voters who believe cheating affected the outcome of the 2020 election and other similar numbers.
‘A different level of intensity
Officials in Washoe County, Nevada, claim election deniers had also circulated harmful falsehoods, such as when one activist shared a clip from the election office’s Livestream and questioned what an election worker was doing with their computer.
“‘What is he doing?’ they wondered after posting the video. Look at him; he’s shady. Look at him; he’s obviously up to something.’ “According to Drysdale, the county spokesperson. “And it kind of caught on.”
According to Drysdale, the employee was shutting down a computer at the end of the day.
“Misinformation generates threats against election officials that make it much more difficult for us to conduct our jobs, whether those threats are violent or harassment,” said Michigan Secretary of State Joselyn Benson.
In Maine, an election denier converted a former movie theatre into a “Constitutional Hall” to host “election integrity” seminars and poll watcher training. The Maine Secretary of State claims the events have resulted in an upsurge in “requests for information about things that don’t exist.”
“To the election deniers hosting false training and instilling ignorance and deception in our citizens, I would say our elections are free, fair, and secure,” Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows told News.
Other states’ officials, including Missouri, Indiana, Colorado, and Kansas, informed News that they were concerned about election skeptics being trained as poll workers.
“I was not expecting this degree of passion,” stated a Johnson County, Kansas, election commissioner.
According to a report issued two weeks ago by the United States House Oversight and Reform Committee, election officials are confronting unprecedented obstacles.
“These additional constraints on election officials make their basic work of running elections significantly more difficult by depleting already precious resources and weakening public trust in election processes,” according to the research.
The News This report was co-written by Sara Avery, Ali Dukakis, Alexandra Myers, and Lucien Bruggeman.