Falsehoods, Harassment Stress Local Election Offices In US

Falsehoods, Harassment Stress Local Election Offices In US

Carroll County Board of Elections Clerk Sarah Duck, front, stamps questions on upcoming elections as voter Deloris Keen counts additional questions at the Board of Elections office on Sept. 26, 2022 in Carrollton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Phil Long)

CARROLLTON, Ohio (AP) – With less than three weeks until early voting, Nicole Mickley has compiled an impressive to-do list: checking voting machines, recruiting voters, a deluge of requests to review public records.

And one weekend he heard that the old county sheriff had died. For Mickley, director of elections for the Ohio district, it adds another layer of complexity to an election season already filled with them. This meant that a new race was needed to fill the position, so he and his small staff had to repeat the fall elections a second time in a week.

"I feel like he's been a consistent runner since we took office in 2019," said Mickley, whose 36 months at the county elections office qualified him as a key member of his four-person staff. Carol:

The office Mickley oversees is just around the corner from the 137-year-old county courthouse at 3,200 Carrollton, nestled among farmland and wells in eastern Ohio. He and Assistant Principal Cheri Whipkey's son graduated from high school together.

The director and his deputy are an unlikely pair to fight the wrath of the nation.

However, when former President Donald Trump began falsely claiming the 2020 presidential election was rigged, Mickley, Whipkey and local voters like them across the country were inundated with voter fraud and conspiracy theories.

They have become targets of threats, stressed by tight budgets and workloads. The pressure and violence drove away many workers, creating a shortage of poll workers and voters.

During the second Ohio preseason in August. Due to the partisan disputes in the district Pemekaran, adding to the burden on the election officials, two members of the staff of Mikeli were rotated throughout the day to fill in for the absent election officials in the district. The husbands of two crew members called for help.

Then there is the misinformation that the voting system across the country is riddled with fraud. Unproven conspiracy theories about voting machines, election artificial intelligence rigging or voter fraud have found a large audience among Republicans. That claim has sometimes led voters, often friends and neighbors of Carroll County election workers, to question their voting equipment and voting procedures, unsure of what to believe in a system they've trusted all their lives.

False claims about the 2020 presidential election have caused believers to flock to polling places, requesting public records related to the voting process or equipment, trying to destroy 2020 elections and remove certain voters from the rolls. . .

Carroll County, despite going Republican in 2020 and voting for Trump by 53 percentage points over President Joe Biden, is not immune. . " In the summer. Thousands protested against electronic voting machines and vowed to sue or ask the states to keep records of the elections held.

Later letters warned election officials that they "face the most severe criminal and civil consequences provided by law" if they destroy voter records.

In response, a floor-to-ceiling file cabinet in Mickley's office is now filled with 2020 ballots and other documents — documents that will be destroyed early to make way for 2022 voter registration.

"We're torn at the seams, " he said. "This is a small office in a courthouse built in the 19th century. Space is not our friend."

Whipkey said there have been no complaints from local residents, many of them after 16 years running the local McDonald's. He and Mickley felt lucky they only received the letter and not the death threats that various election officials across the country received.

Still the lawsuit continued. Whipkey says he hates being called a liar.

"If they want answers, they come to us and we can give them ," he said. But they don't want answers, they just want to tease.

Mickley said attending the national conference convinced him that America's election officials are just as loyal, hardworking and passionate as their employees. "I defended them and I was angry with them."

Behind the office's windshield, two other poll workers answer calls, process voter registration forms, and check for change requests and absentee ballots. They are also preparing the selected regions. Office positions are still being filled for the Nov. 8 election, which is expected to have a large turnout in part because Ohio is one of the nation's tightest U.S. Senate races.

Democrat Sarah Duck and Republican Deloris Keen both disavowed their personal feelings about the Trump campaign. They do not want to involve politics in their work by organizing local elections.

While in the community, Dyke said neighbors are generally sympathetic to how stressful elections have been in recent years.

"People always say, 'I don't know, but I know you've done a good job, '" he said. "He's like a congressman, isn't he? 'Well, I don't like Congress, but a congressman is good.'

That hasn't always been the experience of Carroll County Board of Elections members.

Members of the bipartisan jury — retired railroad workers, farmers, facility operators and local yoga studio owners — held their meeting in the cramped office at a table sandwiched between Mickley and Whipkey. Whiskey bottles shaped like elephants and donkeys sit in a metal cabinet nearby.

Some members say they need to work harder to dispel the misinformation that is rampant in Republican-dominated circles.

Roger Thomas, one of the two Republicans on the council and a popular pumpkin patch manager, said he was disappointed that many of his friends "don't want to treat what they know with facts."

"You can't convince them no matter what you tell them, " he says. "I don't know how we're going to fight it. They don't care if you upset the cause of this election, and that's the problem. If this election fails, go south as the election is, and so is the country."

Mickley said he was a perfectionist who would never tolerate the slightest interference in the safe and proper conduct of elections.

He choked up as he talked about how seriously he took his job and how he and his staff wanted to dispel the fears of skeptical voters. Widespread belief in election conspiracy theories and hostility towards front-line pollsters has left Mickley in doubt about the country's future.

"I think about my kids ," he says, "and I want to leave them and think about what I want to build now so that they still have it in 20 or 30 years. And I'm not alone. That."

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