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Texas Matters: Gillespie County and The Democracy Erosion Engine

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Committee on Oversight and Reform U.S. House of Representatives

After the 2020 Presidential Election, election administrator offices across the country began to receive a flood of threatening phone calls. Those threatening messages can be traced back to comments that former President Donald Trump made — leading up to and immediately after the Nov. 3 election.

Those comments by Trump also helped to trigger a violent insurrection which was part of an attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump’s words, attacking the election system, also led to the passage of Senate Bill 1 in Texas, which Republicans called an election integrity bill. However opponents, including independent democracy watchdogs, called it a voter suppression bill.

All this culminated recently in Gillespie County, Texas — home of Fredericksburg — where the entire elections administration office quit citing death threats, online harassment and stalking. In the resignation letter by former election administrator Annisa Herrera, she also blamed the new Texas election law and underfunding which made her job unsustainable.

What’s happening in Gillespie County isn’t unique. It’s happening across Texas and across the nation. It’s part of what a recent congressional report called the "Democracy Erosion Engine."

Let’s get reaction to the situation in Gillespie County from the Texas League of Women Voters.

Joyce LeBombard is the president of the League of Women Voters of Texas.

The pressure being felt at election offices across the nation isn’t an accident, according to a report released this month by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The report is called "'Exhausting and Dangerous': The dire problem of election misinformation and disinformation."

It says there is an active Democracy Erosion Engine. This is a feedback loop that runs on election disinformation and then creates threats of violence and disruptions to elections. This in turn creates opportunities for more disinformation to be used by conspiracy theorists to gain notoriety and then run for office with the explicit goal of overturning election results. All this is bad news for democracy in America.

David Becker is the executive director and founder of the Center of Election Innovation and Research.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi