voice for democracy

Dave Zweifel

Opinion | Another threat to democracy: harassing poll workers – Madison.com

Poll workers — like (from left) David Stracener, Amelia Rhinerson and Heidi Heffron-Clark — represent one of the key safeguards against election fraud in Wisconsin.
This insanity over the 2020 presidential election is threatening America’s system of self-government.
That’s not just my view of what is known throughout the land as Donald Trump’s “Big Lie,” but a worry held by many who study the health of American democracy and its underpinnings. You tear down the people’s faith in fair elections and you destroy the bedrock of our ability to make decisions on who shall be our leaders.
That’s why many today argue that the insurrection, exemplified by the mob takeover at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, is far from over. The constant attack on election integrity that started in Arizona and has snowballed in states run by Republicans — including Wisconsin’s Legislature — is seen not so much an attempt to overturn Trump’s defeat but as a way to make sure future elections can be controlled by partisans. In other words, achieving a bloodless coup.
Meanwhile, the assault on the integrity of our elections has been particularly hard on the thousands of workers — many of them citizen volunteers — who do the tedious work at the polls. Robin Vos’ hand-picked, ethics-challenged Michael Gableman has even implied that some may be dishonest.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell has commented on how demoralized his cadre of Election Day workers has become. It is they who have been accused of somehow enabling election fraud when, of course, it’s all a big lie.
Some states, Arizona for one, have seen election officials and their families attacked and vilified by the “stolen election” zealots. It has gotten so bad that an “Election Official Legal Defense Network” has been organized to counter the bullying and even physical attacks to which election workers have been subjected.
The network pledges to provide free legal services to anyone involved in the election system, from secretaries of state to municipal clerks and the volunteers who work at the polls on Election Day.
That this is necessary in America today is what is so upsetting. As Madison City Attorney Michael Haas, who once served as the head of Wisconsin’s Election Commission, will tell you, it’s your neighbors who are conducting elections, not a bunch of shady characters invented by the fraud crackpots.
“They have a monumental job, and they do it as a small part of their life, in the spotlight and with election observers watching their every move,” he told a recent State Bar panel.
Haas notes that while most states run elections at the county level, Wisconsin conducts elections at the municipal level.
The state has 72 county clerks and 1,850 municipal clerks who are involved in elections. Many of the local clerks are part-timers. They run elections in the smallest towns while full-time clerks tend to the largest cities.
That decentralization serves as a barrier to organized voter fraud because of the number of sworn election officials who would need to be involved in a conspiracy.
“I know what voter fraud does and doesn’t look like in Wisconsin because part of my job for 12 years was to search for it,” the city attorney added. “Elections are more secure and accurate than ever before.”
Some clerks are worried that the constant claims that somehow they were involved in a vast conspiracy to fix the 2020 election will cause Election Day workers to say it’s not worth it.
That would be yet another tragedy in this never-ending attack on our democracy.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. [email protected]608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  
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Dave Zweifel
Editor Emeritus Dave Zweifel has been with The Capital Times since he graduated from UW-Madison in 1962, serving as the paper’s editor in chief from 1983 to 2008. He was president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council for 15 years, served as a Pulitzer Prize judge in 2000 and 2001, and named to the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2011. A native of New Glarus, Wis., where he grew up on a farm, he serves on several non-profit boards and is a military veteran, having served on active duty as a field artillery officer in the early 1960s and for 26 years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard where he retired as a colonel in 1993.
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Poll workers — like (from left) David Stracener, Amelia Rhinerson and Heidi Heffron-Clark — represent one of the key safeguards against election fraud in Wisconsin.