By Blair Page
Since 2016, threats and attacks on poll workers have increased rapidly. Egged on by former President Trump and his supporters, poll workers have been threatened and bullied out of their jobs. States around the country have now found it hard to recruit and retain poll workers.
In response, outside organizations have stepped up, raising money to hire and train poll workers around the country. Most notably, basketball great LeBron James teamed up with other athletes to create, More Than A Vote, a multimillion dollar effort that netted some 10,000 poll workers around the country.
These outside groups place great importance on states that have a history of electing candidates from both parties, swing states as they are known.
Considering the increased scrutiny our elections have faced, swing states like Wisconsin are in greatest need of poll workers to ensure that elections are run smoothly.
In Wisconsin, an evenly divided state where elections are often decided by a few thousand out of millions cast, Republicans in the state legislature have banned state and local governments from soliciting and accepting outside funds for the purpose of election administration.
It appears this is in direct response to the efforts in 2020 by outside groups to make sure that polling places are sufficiently staffed to administer elections. Since 2020, nearly 20 states have passed legislation or enacted regulations that have banned private funding for election administration.
This ban an outside funding is the latest in a long line of undermining confidence in our elections by Wisconsin Republicans. Republicans attacked ballot drop boxes and the process for counting mail-in ballots during the 2020 election.
It should be noted that this GOP sponsored bill was passed over the veto of Democratic Governor Tony Evers. The veto override by the GOP controlled legislature is in large part due to the aggressive gerrymander of the state’s legislative districts. For example, in 2020 Republican State Assembly candidates received 53.8% of votes yet won 61/99 seats. In 2018 they received 44.8% of the vote yet won 63/99 seats.
While liberal-leaning or connected groups provided most of the funding to support recruiting and paying poll workers, and Republicans have argued that private funds undermine elections, there is no evidence to suggest that these poll workers improperly influenced the outcome in any jurisdiction.
With Wisconsin again facing very competitive elections for the U.S. Senate and Governorship, having the elections run smoothly will be essential to ensuring trust in the electoral process.
While the ban is in place, it is unclear if the state will step in and provide adequate funding, and localities will likely struggle to cover the cost. A group of Senate Democrats have proposed a bill that will provide $20 billion in federal funds to states for the purpose of election administration. The bill faces an uphill battle in that chamber.
With the 2022 mid-term elections quickly approaching, and polling suggesting competitive races across the country, it is vital that voters of all political persuasions to trust that elections are run fairly and properly.