In Wisconsin, a key swing state, cameras and plexiglass fortify the reception area of a county election office in Madison, the capital, after a man wearing camouflage and a mask tried to open locked doors during an election in April.
In another bellwether area, Maricopa County, Az., where election workers had to be escorted through a scrum of election deniers to reach their cars in 2020, a security fence was added to protect the perimeter of a vote tabulation center.
Colorado's top election official, Jena Griswold, resorted to paying for private security out of her budget after a stream of threats.
As the midterm elections approach, those who oversee them are taking steps to beef up security for themselves, their employees, polling places and even drop boxes, tapping state and federal funding.
The heightened vigilance comes as violent rhetoric from the right intensifies and as efforts to intimidate election officials by those who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election become commonplace.
Griswold, 37, said that threats of violence had kept her and her aides up late at night as they combed through comments on social media.
At a right-wing group’s gathering in Colorado a prominent election denier with militia ties suggested that Griswold should be killed. That was when she concluded that her part-time security detail provided by the Colorado State Patrol wasn’t enough.
One in five local election officials who responded to a survey by the Brennan Center for Justice said that they were “very” or “somewhat unlikely” to continue serving through 2024.
At workshops and conferences attended by election officials, it is not unusual for them to exchange anecdotes about threatening messages or harassment at the grocery store. The discussions have involved testing drop boxes — a focus of right-wing attacks on mail-in voting — to see if they can withstand being set on fire. Benjamin Hovland, a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, described the intimidation campaign as pervasive.
“This isn’t a red-state issue or a blue-state issue,” he said. “This is a national issue, where the professional public servants that run our elections have been subjected to an unprecedented level of threats, harassment and intimidating behavior.”