"They are purposeful and deliberate": Election experts alarmed after MAGA attacks take a darker turn

By Areeba Shah,
November 2, 2022


Wealthy Republican donor Robert Beadles offered two options to county commissioners when falsely accusing Nevada's Washoe County registrar of voters of counting fraudulent votes: "either fire her or lock her up."

Following the meeting, County Registrar Deanna Spikula's office was inundated with threats and harassing calls from people convinced she was part of an effort to rig the 2020 election against former President Donald Trump, according to an investigation by Reuters. 

Fearing for her family's safety, Spikula submitted her resignation a few months later. 

Her story highlights the nationwide efforts by Trump allies to replace county government leaders with election conspiracy theorists — one of a number of different approaches that right-wing activists have used since the 2020 presidential election to transform how U.S. elections are run. 

From attempting to eliminate voting machines and pushing to hand-count ballots to attacking election administrators, Trump allies are stoking fear about the upcoming midterm elections. Some, like Beadles, aren't only pushing false conspiracy theories — they are also funding organized campaigns. The wealthy activist has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to back Nevada Republicans who promoted unfounded claims of election fraud. 

However, these efforts should not deter voters from showing up to the polls on Election Day, said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation. 

"The threats are real, but the resilience has also been building among the election community now for well over a year… There has been a lot of work done on the ground to help people, who are the frontline workers of democracy be prepared for whatever comes next," Alexander said. 

The California Voter Foundation has been helping election officials prepare for potential conflicts on voting sites. The non-profit held an online briefing with law enforcement to provide de-escalation tips to help election officials feel safe and released a resource guide to address any threats and risks election workers encounter.

Alexander said while the attacks on election workers have been worrying, people have inspired her by stepping up to address these rising threats. 

Campaigns like "Election Hero Day," which recognizes the work of election administration teams and poll workers on Nov. 7, are helping workers and volunteers feel more appreciated. 

The Vet the Vote campaign has recruited over 60,000 veterans and military family members to work at polls in the 2022 midterms and other future elections.

But in some places, these efforts may not be enough.

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Racism, misogyny and other forms of intolerance play a role in election workers being targeted, Alexander said. 

In Detroit, Black women make up far more than half of the frontline election workers, according to city officials, the Detroit News reported. In 2020, election workers were overwhelmed by a crowd of Trump supporters chanting "Stop the Count!" from outside the TCF Center in Detroit as they were counting absentee ballots, Ada Nicole Smith, an election worker, told Detroit News. 

Even as disruptions and threats have existed in the past, "what is different and distinct now is the frequency, the severity, and the scale," said Tammy Patrick, a former federal compliance officer in the Maricopa County Elections Department.

These attacks are forcing public servants to leave their jobs. (Full Story)