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Threats against election workers occurring across Texas

Ryan Poppe
Texas Public Radio

Threats against election administrators and county clerks are occurring throughout Texas as the mid-term election on Nov. 8 draws near.

The threats, including harassment and intimidation, are fueled by misinformation about the 2020 election spread by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Gillespie Elections Administrator Anissa Hererra and other office staff have resigned due to threats on social media that began after the 2020 election. Her last day on the job is Tuesday, Aug. 16. Election officials blame misinformation about voter fraud spread on social media across the country in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

The immediate past-president of the Texas Association of Election Administrators Remi Garza said he wants any election administrator or county clerk and other election workers in the state's 254 counites to speak up if they are threatened.

"I hope they will speak out, so that others are aware of this activity so some common threats can be identified and maybe a wider solution can be achieved either through the legislature or through law enforcement," said Garza, the Cameron County Elections Administrator.

Garza said most allegations of election wrongdoing that have reached the courts nationwide do not involve election administrators or election workers.

"When you look at those cases, it's actions by the individual candidates and people within the community, not the elections administrators themselves," he said.

The increase in threats against election works comes amid the backdrop of a tight governor's contest and congressional races laced with partisan rhetoric over gun control, reproductive rights, and immigration — among other things.

Garza said the state's relatively new expanded voting observer law has made elections more intense for election workers.

"Before, it (the law) was that they could 'observe' the activities of the polling place, and they changed that to 'see and hear' what's occurring, which makes it much more subjective to the individual who is watching. There's the chance they could be a little more intrusive to the process because they could claim they are not able to see or hear what's happening in a polling place," Garza said.

He said the expansion of the voter observation law comes with legal protections that he said may occasionally give observers a sense of entitlement to be more engaged in the process than intended by the law. He said the role of observers is to monitor the voting process to ensure transparency and that voting laws are followed. He said observers are expected to do just that, observe, not "coach" or "referee" election workers.

Garza said Texans can rest assured elections administrators and county clerks across the state will be focused on their true objective at election time.

"I don't know of any election administrators that have any strong feelings with respect as to who wins or loses an election as long as the votes are counted correctly and that the will of voters is truly reflected when we release our results, he said.

Early voting for the Nov. 8 election runs from Oct. 24 through Nov. 4.

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