Long-time county clerk Sam Merlino decided to leave her job after officials in Nye County, Nevada, accepted a pitch from a Republican nominee for secretary of state to stop using voting machines for the general election and instead switch to hand counting.
The move was the final straw for Merlino, a Republican, as her county was consumed by unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
According to election experts and officials, states across the country have seen a slow exodus of election officials since the 2020 election, owing to an unprecedented level of misinformation, harassment, and threats.
With only three months until Election Day, ABC News has learned that election offices in at least nine states, including Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and New Jersey, have seen a new wave of departures and early retirements.
The loss of so many local election officials is a “significant concern,” according to Elizabeth Howard, senior counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank that tracks election rules, who told ABC News that “there’s a huge amount of institutional knowledge that we’re losing across the country.”
“Over the past few decades, election administration has grown increasingly complex, and election officials are constantly trying to balance technology with accuracy and reliability, as well as have an accurate voter registration list and make it as easy as possible for eligible voters to cast a ballot that is accurately counted,” Howard said.
According to the Fredericksburg Standard, the entire three-person election department in Gillespie County, Texas, resigned last week due to threats and misinformation.
Taylor told ABC News that over the last two years, Texas has seen a 30% turnover rate among county officials, with several officials across the state resigning due to threats of violence.
Election administrators expressed concerns about staffing ahead of the midterm elections in a report released this month by the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee.
According to the report, false claims of election fraud in the 2020 election have forced election administrators to deal with a slew of threats, lawsuits, and misinformation, which one election official described as “distracting us to the point where we can’t get our real work done.”
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who promoted false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election after Donald Trump lost his reelection bid, has fueled and supported efforts to discredit and overturn election results on a national scale. Lindell hosted the “Moment of Truth Summit” this past weekend in Springfield, Missouri, where hundreds of people gathered to hear him and other election deniers rail against voting machines and discuss their ongoing efforts to contest the 2020 election by, among other things, petitioning election officials for voting machine information and election data.
Tina Peters, a Colorado county clerk who became a leading figure in the election denial movement last year after authorities say the election software she used for her county wound up in the hands of a consultant and screenshots of the software appeared on right-wing websites, was among those who appeared virtually at the event. In an early plea, Peters pleaded not guilty.
Peters, who lost the Republican primary for Colorado secretary of state in June, told summit attendees how she paid for a recount in that race and urged them to be “courageous” when confronted with election results.
Colorado, like many other states, has seen election officials resign or retire early ahead of the November election, according to Crane.
Supervisor of Elections Mark Early of Florida told ABC News that election officials in the state have “felt the hate” from 2020 election deniers.
A former Georgia election worker testified at the House Jan. 6 hearings in late June that after former President Trump and his lawyers spread lies about her actions counting Georgia 2020 ballots, she was forced out of her job.
While many departing officials cite non-work-related reasons for their departure, many emphasize how difficult their jobs have become over the last two years as they have faced increased scrutiny and hostility from skeptics.