Rage Against the Polls

The election results are still trickling in as mail-in ballots continue to be scanned. At this point, the township results are unchanged from before (although the margins of victory are larger), but the Democrats have now swept the county offices as more mail-in votes are counted. I didn’t report before, but in the Magisterial Judge race in Garden City, George Dawson won due to the large margin in Ridley even though he lost in both Wards 1 and 5 in Nether Providence (only Wards 1 and 5 are in the 32-1-30 district).

I keep in touch with many of our election officials. This is the first time they are reporting widespread harassment. Election officials work a long day (6 am until 9 pm usually) in service to their community – often disrupting their lives to do so. I’ve had to take vacation days and find child care most years to be able to help.

The role election officials play is largely prescribed by law. They have limited discretion in how to perform their role. People yell at them for wrong registrations, for the machines they’re using, for mail-in ballot issues, for not checking IDs, for who’s on the ballot and so on – none of which is within their control to do anything about. And in this latest election there was abuse simply for election official’s party affiliation and hostility over there being no Republican to vote for against them. The Republican party of Nether Providence did little to nominate poll workers this year – failing to even get their serving officials on the ballot in places.

As someone who’s recruited poll workers in the past, I can tell you it is exceedingly hard to find someone willing and able to serve. In 2017, I went door to door to try to find someone to replace our JoE who had passed away the previous fall. I found one neighbor that said yes, Johanna Manning, who sadly passed away last fall. She was the one person among dozens I talked to that said yes when asked to serve. Without her and 5-1 JoE Michael Bailey’s help, I don’t know if we’d have gotten the polls open in 2017. It was hard enough recruiting temporary election officials, finding someone to jump into a 4 year commitment is even harder.

People are increasingly willing to openly express hate. Officials at all levels, even down to our election officials – our neighbors – are now subject to regular aggression. Abuse against elected officials at all levels is a threat to our democracy. People are not willing to step up to serve their community if they’re forced to endure hate. If we are denied the opportunity to elect the people we want to serve in these roles because they are harrassed out of it, then our republic has failed.

Rep. Scanlon has co-sponsored legislation to protect election workers.

Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat from Pennsylvania and a co-sponsor with Sarbanes of the bill to protect election workers, said she plans to speak with her colleagues about holding a hearing on the issue and contacting the Justice Department.

“Nobody’s being held accountable,” Scanlon said of the people sending the threats.

The Reuters report documented several election officials in her district who received death threats and went into hiding. Scanlon said she plans to have discussions with DOJ officials to ensure they have the tools to effectively prosecute the threats of violence.

This is long overdue. The county’s elections warehouse supervisor has recently sued to stop the threats against him. This needs to stop, and we need to hold those engaging in these behaviors – and those tolerating them – accountable.

Update from 7 Nov. DelCo Times,

Reuther also expressed thanks for the county staff who worked on the election.

“It’s a tremendous process and they do it twice a year and it’s part of their job and I’m really grateful for the work that they’ve done and the flexibility that they’ve shown as they’ve had to add new processes and adapt at all times,” she said, as she also acknowledged the judges of elections, inspectors and poll workers who also give of their time.

She noted the hostility faced by some and called for a return to civility.

“One of the unfortunate side effects of some of the discourse about elections is that a lot of those people who used to really look forward to serving in elections because it was a chance to see their neighbors,” Reuther said. “What I’ve heard from a lot of poll workers were how often they were confronted by people who kept saying nasty things and it’s really unfortunate.”

She urged the public to do better.

“Let’s try for some civility,” Reuther said, “because these people are here doing a public service. They’re not getting paid very much. Almost all of them have better things to do but they’re there serving their community to make sure we can vote. It’s a gift … If you see a poll worker, somebody you saw working at the polls, please say thank you … I hope some of this will dissipate over time.”

Categories: Ramblings