Remember how the DOJ's National Election Threats Task Force promised to "combat threats against election workers?" According to VOA News, "The U.S. Justice Department is investigating more than 100 cases of threats made against local election officials over the past year, most of them in states that former President Donald Trump lost to President Joe Biden during the 2020 election."
The National Election Threats Task Force has already racked up a few indictments. There is evidence that some election supervisors are calling for law enforcement to "keep track" of people who make threatening phone calls to election officials. In a recent roundtable, Lisa Marra, Director of the Cochise County, AZ Elections, said she wants those making "angry phone calls to election officials to get escalated up to someone in law enforcement just so that we can keep track of them."
The Aug. 11 Oversight Committee roundtable to discuss the Task Force chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) showed committee members and various election administration officials talking about the "effects of misinformation and disinformation" and the Task Force's plans to address "the chilling impact of how election lies are impacting their (election officials) ability to do their jobs." Maloney opens,
"Welcome to today's roundtable on election misinformation. Nearly a year ago, this committee held a hearing on the fraudulent election audit in Maricopa County, Arizona. This so-called audit was inspired by lies about election fraud spread by former President Trump and his allies. During the hearing, Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates testified that this effort to undermine the integrity of our elections was, and I quote, the biggest threat to our democracy in my lifetime. End quote. Supervisor Gates is a Republican."
Gates is a Republican, she says, as if to imply unanimous or unbiased agreement on the matters at hand. Phew, we thought Maloney just threw half the country under the bus because some dared question the 2020 election. With foundational opening statements like these, it stretches credulity to believe this committee will objectively assess what constitutes a threat to election officials. Below is an excerpt of Maloney's opening statement at the Oct. 7, 2021, House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing. She hasn't changed her tune:
Maloney Opening Statement/Oct. 7, 2021 Hearing
Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX17) provides at least one data point for why many Americans are frustrated. He has run his findings on election abnormalities up the ladder with little success. He laments that he has been met with nothing but "silence" from local election officials and Federal law enforcement on the evidence he and his cohorts have presented. In fact, he states that no one has even acknowledged his findings, despite his having provided direct evidence of 57,000 votes made in Dallas County that subsequently disappeared from the voter rolls, only to reappear weeks later. “I did not call this fraud. I called it "abnormalities, inconsistencies, and irregularities.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation refuses to even acknowledge receipt of this information."
The Oversight Committee called upon local election officials in four states to help formulate the plan for the National Election Threats Task Force; Arizona, Florida, Ohio, and Texas. As such, there was an hour-long discussion on how best to protect election workers and officials. To be fair, during the hour-plus session, several local officials described individual threats that most people would see as inappropriate or even credible threats if what they recounted actually happened. In the end, to trust these elected officials amounts to how well one can trust that they are defining actual threats.
Marra Adds Screening Question to Poll Worker Application
Cochise County Elections Director Lisa Marra, the one who suggests Sheriffs "keep track" of callers who question elections, added a question to the county's poll worker application. Those who apply for a position are now being asked to answer questions about the motivation behind their wish to be a poll worker. The 2022 Election Poll Worker Application asks the following question; "What election positions are you interested in and why? What is your motivation for serving as a Poll Worker?"
A cursory look through multiple other state and county poll worker applications shows none have a similar screening question. The state-level ones I reviewed were simple, like this one from California. County-level ones were more detailed, but none I reviewed asked for a motivation to participate in the election process. A typical county application looked more like this one from Cobb County, GA, or this one from Davidson County, TN. From that, it is rational to conclude that the Cochise application is probative for reasons that are not entirely clear with no other context.
For context, a Tennessee Star article referenced the fact that there has been a "significant increase in Republicans applying for these positions this year, with Republican officials calling for 5,000 Republicans to serve in these slots in Arizona. Historically, poll worker positions have been dominated by Democrats."
The column also references concerns from Cochise County Republican Party chairman, who "urged Marra to aim to hire Republicans for 50 percent of the poll workers." Republicans in the county outnumber Democrats, 31,736 to 20,770. Montgomery was apparently sufficiently concerned about the Rep./Dem. ratio of poll workers to submit a public record request for the names of the poll workers from 2020 who have been rehired for 2022. The Star states Montgomery is "concerned that the ones who expressed concern about voter fraud are being excluded this year." Moreover, Arizona law "requires county boards to appoint election inspectors with previous experience "wherever possible."
Others in the state are worried about the possible screening for political bias or motivation to participate. Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward tweeted in May that there were rumors of "ideological tests" being applied in various election departments in Arizona. While there is limited hard evidence to suggest such tests, rumors don't materialize from thin air.
Marra has been abundantly clear both in the Oversight Committee meeting and in various tweets that the idea that the 2020 election was fraudulent is nothing more than the "Big Lie." The series of tweets below arguably indicate a preoccupation, whether justified or not, with the questioning of elections and the safety of election workers.
Calling people who question races or request hand counts "stalkers" is not exactly a neutral term for describing voters, especially coming from a county director of elections.
An Arizona Daily Independent article from February of 2022 referenced Marra's apparent opposition to election integrity efforts. The article mentions a set of Tweets Marra penned in February referring to counties in America being "attacked by conspiracy theorists from the outside." The column also quoted Marra in another tweet which said,
"Let me be perfectly clear. The election official in Cochise County, Arizona, does not support a 'test' audit. Nor was I asked about it or consulted about the process." She added that such "false disinformation" is harmful, as well as "an insult to me…and more importantly our voters."
Another tweet retweeted by Marra refers to a Texas election director who resigned because of "threats against election officials and my election staff, dangerous misinformation...and absurd legislation..."
In February 2021, she also stated there was no fraud in the Maricopa County election, but "Nothing will convince some people." In March 2021, according to the Arizona Daily piece, she described the audit and President Trump's public statements about the election being rigged as undermining voter confidence #TheBigLie. She also stated that the imaginary election conspiracy "is just plain ridiculous, not to mention dangerous." In April of 2021, Marra tweeted during the Arizona forensic audit that the hysteria caused by Q followers "deliberately undermined voter confidence." The tweet below is no longer posted on her timeline.
Lisa Marra/Tweets/Arizona Daily/ April 25, 2021
To be clear, no one condones phone calls with threats of violence or intent to harm. Clearly, there have been instances of real or perceived threats from citizens. However, it is important for election officials who are genuinely interested in conducting fair elections to refrain from any appearance of targeting voters who have genuine concerns.
When an election director repeatedly exhibits bias of any sort, it becomes very difficult to trust that they will entertain voters' genuine concerns. Election directors should be neutral parties to all aspects of the administration of elections, including the investigation of contested results.
Call me skeptical, but as seen in the Oversight Committee's conduct, many connected with the Biden administration do not have the best track record regarding equitable treatment of parties whose viewpoints do not conform with the prevailing script. When local county election directors begin to go off the rails, the consequences of that conduct become even more concerning. The truth is often somewhere in between. The current political landscape on both sides makes it enormously difficult for Americans to return to neutral. With regard to elections, it is important that we do.