Carrollton, Ohio – With less than three weeks until early voting, Nicole Mickley was staring at a daunting to-do list. These include testing voting machines, recruiting poll workers, and onslaught of requests to investigate public records.
And over the weekend, word arrived that the longtime county sheriff had died. That meant a new contest was needed to fill the position, so she and her small staff had to rework the ballots. for the fall elections Second time in a week.
“Since taking office in 2019, it has always felt like a roller coaster.
Mickley oversees the office in the corner of a 137-year-old courthouse in Carrollton, a tight-knit town of 3,200 people surrounded by farms and fracking wells in eastern Ohio. She and her deputy director Cheri Whipkey’s son graduated from high school together.
The director and his lieutenant seem like an unlikely pair fighting the wrath of the nation.
But since former President Donald Trump started making false claims With the 2020 presidential election stolen, Mickley, Wickie, and local election officials like them across the country have been bombarded with conspiracy theories and election fraud and plagued with harassment.
During the second primary election in Ohio in August, Partisan strife over district reorganization — Two Mickley clerks ran around the county all day to replace absent poll workers. My husband, one of the two staff members, helped me.
and there is Flow of misinformation False claims that the national voting system is riddled with fraud.baseless conspiracy theory Manipulation of elections or modification of ballots by artificial intelligence discovered for voting machines A Wide Audience Among RepublicansThis allegation can cause voters (usually friends and neighbors of Carroll County election staff) to question voting equipment and election procedures.
of false claims Regarding the 2020 presidential election, he also guided his followers: flood the election office There have been calls across the country for public records related to the voting process or equipment, calls for 2020 ballots to be retained instead of destroyed, and attempts to remove certain voters from rolls.
Carroll County is unaffected despite being heavily Republican and voting for Trump over President Joe Biden in 2020 by nearly 53 percent. They protested electronic voting machines, vowed to sue, and demanded the county keep records of thousands of past elections.
A follow-up letter warned that if election officials destroyed election records, they would “face the most severe criminal and civil consequences available under the law.”
In response, a locked floor-to-ceiling cabinet in Mickley’s office is jam-packed with boxes of 2020 ballots and other records, usually discarded for the records of the 2022 election. This is the document that should have been.
“We’re already broken at the seams,” she said. “It’s a small office in the basement of a courthouse built in the 1800s.
Whickey says none of the complaint letters came from local residents, nor from residents she knew personally, who has run a local McDonald’s for 16 years. Both she and Mickley feel lucky to have just received the letter. death threats Several election officials across the country experienced it.
Still, the blame stings. Wicky said he hates being called a liar.
“If they wanted an answer, they would have asked us. We could give it to them,” she said. They just want to harass.
Mickley said attending the national conference convinced her that election officials across the country are just as honest, hardworking and passionate as her staff.
Behind a plexiglass window in the front of the office, two other elections staff answer phones and process voter registration forms, changes of address, and absentee ballot requests. They’re also preparing constituency kits to be sent to polling place workers — ahead of the Nov. 8 election, as Ohio is one of the most-watched U.S. Senate elections in the country. The firm is still trying to fill positions. Country.
Democrat Clerk Sarah Dyke and Republican Deloris Keane have kept their personal feelings out of office about the movement spawned by Trump’s election. They don’t want to bring politics into the job of running county elections.
When she’s out in the community, Dyck said neighbors are usually sympathetic to how stressful election work has become in recent years.
“People always say, ‘I don’t know about this, but I know you guys are doing a good job,'” she said. “Well, I don’t like Congress, but my congressmen are fine.” That’s why those relationships matter, because the closer you are, the more you get to know people. ”
This may not always be the experience of members of the Carroll County Election Commission.
Four members of the bipartisan committee — a retired railroad worker, a farmer, a facility operator and the owner of a local yoga studio — meet at a table sandwiched between Mickley and Whipkey’s desks in a cramped office. Open A collection of whiskey bottles in the shape of elephants and donkeys sits above his cabinet in a nearby metal filing.
Some members said that efforts must always be made to dispel the misinformation that is prevalent in Republican-dominated counties.
Roger Thomas, one of two Republicans on the board and owner of a popular pumpkin stall, said many of his friends were “trying to get past what they thought they knew the facts.” I feel frustrated that I don’t.
“No matter what I say to them, I can’t convince them,” he said. They don’t care if they ruin these election results. That’s the problem. If these elections don’t go your way, go south. As elections go, so do countries. ”
Mickley is a perfectionist and will not tolerate even the slightest interference in conducting safe and accurate elections.
Talking about how seriously she takes her job and how desperate she and her staff are to ease the worries of skeptical voters is choking. Due to widespread belief in her election conspiracy theories and her hostility to front-line election officials, Mickley puts the future of her country in question.
“I’m thinking about my children,” she said. ”
Holly Reimer, an AP writer from Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/10/06/falsehoods-harassment-stress-local-election-offices-in-us/ Falsehood, Harassment Stress U.S. Local Election Offices