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Threats against election workers occurring across Texas

Ryan Poppe

Threats against election administrators and county clerks are occurring throughout Texas as the mid-term election on Nov. 8 draws near. A tight governor's contest and congressional races are fueled by intense partisan rhetoric and voter fraud misinformation.

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

The threats are fueled by a tight governor's contest and congressional races laced with intense partisan rhetoric and voter fraud misinformation.

Voter turnout is expected to be increased by calls for gun control in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde this past May. The topic of abortion rights is also expected to send more voters to the polls after the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade this summer. Voters will be looking to support like-minded candidates on both issues.

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 as

contributing to the problem.

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 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 evolve 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.

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 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.

Copyright 2022 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Brian Kirkpatrick has been a journalist in Texas most of his life, covering San Antonio news since 1993, including the deadly October 1998 flooding, the arrival of the Toyota plant in 2003, and the base closure and realignments in 2005.