Top Arizona elections official says violent threats fueling worker turnover

Top Arizona elections official says violent threats fueling worker turnover
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Arizona’s top elections official on Tuesday said a sharp increase in violent threats against workers since last year's vote is fueling turnover among administrators.  

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), speaking at a Senate committee hearing, said a barrage of threats and harassment is giving rise to higher than usual attrition rates.

“We're already seeing high turnover among election staff,” said Hobbs, who has personally received threats of violence. “I fear that many more will reach a breaking point and decide that this line of public service is no longer worth it.” 

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Hobbs, who is running for governor in Arizona, was one of several witnesses who testified Tuesday before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on emerging threats to election administrators.

Tuesday’s hearing comes amid calls by Democratic lawmakers for legislation that would stiffen criminal penalties in hopes of deterring the unprecedented level of harassment aimed at workers during last year’s presidential contest.

Responding to questions from Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden should seek some ideological diversity House passes bipartisan bills to strengthen network security, cyber literacy Klobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas MORE (D-Minn.), the witnesses tasked with overseeing elections said they observed a rise in violent threats in 2020 and the election's aftermath and that the dynamic has made it more difficult to recruit and retain election workers and volunteers.

The other election administrator witnesses included Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams (R) and Al Schmidt, a Republican who oversaw elections in Philadelphia and received death threats aimed at him and his family.

Nearly 1 in 6 local 2020 election workers received threats of violence, and almost 1 in 3 said they felt unsafe because of their job, according to an April survey by the Brennan Center for Justice. Some had their homes broken into, others fled with their families into hiding, and some faced armed crowds outside their workplaces and homes. 

Despite the prevalence of such threats, an investigation by Reuters found that state authorities have done very little to hold accountable the perpetrators of violent threats against election workers. The report uncovered only a single case that’s being prosecuted federally.