Why California election workers are returning after COVID and conspiracy theories

By Sameea Kamal,
March 2, 2024


Between COVID-19 and election fraud conspiracy theories since 2020, it has been a tumultuous time for California’s election workers. 

The state lost 15% of its election officials between the November 2020 election and July 2021, according to the California Voter Foundation, which documented incidents of threats, harassment and stress. While not all left due to safety concerns, more than half of California counties have a new registrar of voters since 2020, compared to 17% turnover between 2016 and 2020.

Soon joining that list is Cathy Darling Allen, the registrar in Shasta County, where officials have faced intimidation and threats by some unhappy with election results. She announced in February that she is retiring in May due to health issues — and reducing stress is essential to recovery.

In November, tensions were heightened when suspicious envelopes were sent to election offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. Another arrived at Yuba County’s office in January that tested positive for fentanyl.

But ahead of Tuesday’s end of primary voting, elections officials in more than a dozen California counties say they’re in good shape for staffing permanent and temporary poll workers.

Kim Alexander, president of the voter foundation, attributes the shift to the attitudes by both election workers and voters. 

“People care very deeply about the right to vote and want to protect that,” she said. 

“We’ve had over four years now of people hearing this false narrative about elections,” she added. And while elections aren’t perfect, “it doesn’t add up to widespread fraud, and I think people know that.”

Since 2020, county elections officials have taken a number of steps to strengthen protection of workers — including safety protocols for possible fentanyl-laced envelopes — and to educate people that their vote is secure.  (Full Story)