September 8, 2022

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A recent survey of local election officials by the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice found, “Nearly one in three local election officials know at least one election worker who has left the job, partly due to safety concerns, increased threats, or intimidation.”

The study found:

  • Nearly three times as many local election officials are very worried about interference by political leaders in how they and fellow local election officials do their jobs going forward as they say they were before 2020.
  • 1 in 5 local election officials are “very” or “somewhat unlikely” to continue serving through 2024; politicians’ attacks on the system, stress, and retirement plans are the primary reasons they plan to leave their jobs.

(Brennan Center for Justice)

  • More than 3 in 4 local election officials feel that threats against local election officials have increased in recent years.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 know of at least one election worker who has left their job at least in part because of fears for their safety, increased threats, or intimidation.
  • 3 in 5 are concerned that threats and harassment will make it harder to retain or recruit election workers going forward.
  • 1 in 6 local election officials have experienced threats, and more than half of these cases have not been reported to law enforcement.

(Brennan Center for Justice)

The three lead paragraphs to a New York Times story provide a glimpse of where things stand:

In Wisconsin, one of the nation’s key swing states, cameras and plexiglass now 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, Ariz., where beleaguered 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.

And in Colorado, the state’s top election official, Jena Griswold, the secretary of state and a Democrat, resorted to paying for private security out of her budget after a stream of threats.

The poll workers I see each election year are the same year after year. They are solidly committed to doing civic work, and the Brennen Center polling shows why.

(Brennan Center for Justice)

A group called Election Integrity reports:

In New Mexico, a partisan election observer followed an election worker by car after the polls closed. The election workers said she might not work elections in the future because of how rattling the experience was.

In Georgia, a mother and daughter, Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, who worked the 2020 election got harassed and received death threats. The threats got so bad that Ms. Freeman fled her home for her safety.

These stories are not rare. One in six election workers say that they have personally received threats.

About 20% of election workers say they may not work in the next presidential election. Among those, about a third cited too many political leaders attacking the voting system, even though they know it is fair.

The 19th reports that movements like Power the Polls attracted thousands of poll workers who were determined not to allow threats to distract them from working:

The response was overwhelming. Power the Polls, through its partnerships with about 200 nonprofit organizations and businesses, estimates it recruited more than 700,000 prospective poll workers. Jane Slusser, program manager for Power the Polls, said 97 percent of those sign-ups were people who had never been a poll worker before. She said afterward, many expressed an interest in doing the work again.

“Overwhelmingly, people were like, ‘Now I’m a poll worker for life. It was a tough day, but it was one of the most rewarding things I ever did,’” she said.

The Power the Polls Twitter page also might give you ideas about the needs that ethnically diverse communities have for poll workers with various language skills.

RELATED TRAINING: Apply for Covering Political Extremism in the Public Square by Sept. 16, 2022.

FTC warns against student loan forgiveness scammers

The Federal Trade Commission warns you to beware of scammers who offer to jump you to the head of the line for student loan forgiveness. The FTC advises:

You don’t need to do anything or pay anybody to sign up for the new program — or the pause. Nobody can get you in early, help you jump the line, or guarantee eligibility. And anybody who says they can — or tries to charge you — is (1) a liar, and (2) a scammer.

Right now, the Department of Education is working hard on the details of the new plan: who’s eligible and how to apply to get your student loan debt cancelled. It won’t happen overnight, and they’ll announce it widely when the program opens up for debt forgiveness. Sign up for Department of Education updates to be notified when the process has officially opened.

Meanwhile, check on your federal loan servicer: be sure you know who they are, and that they have your most recent contact info. That will help you get the latest on the cancellation and pause.

Also, remember that there’s a whole separate program you might be eligible for: the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSFL) program. If you’re eligible, you’ll get federal student loan forgiveness after you have 120 qualifying payments. And until October 31, 2022, the limited waiver offers additional credit for time that previously didn’t count. Check out the PSLF Help Tool to learn more.

The New York Times found cases of phone callers trying to scam student loan borrowers:

In a voice mail message reviewed by The New York Times, a female caller claimed to be from “student support.” The person who received the call does not have student loans. But the caller said the individual was “prequalified” for “updated forgiveness,” before cautioning that “it does look like your status will expire soon.”

Mike Pierce, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, an advocacy group, said he had received at least two calls in recent days, even though he holds no federal student loans. “They’re not wasting any time,” he said.

In fact, nefarious callers have had ample time to prepare, since talk of student loan forgiveness has been percolating since Mr. Biden proposed it during the 2020 presidential campaign.

KING5 TV in Seattle says the Better Business Bureau is warning student loan borrowers against scammers, too. Some of the scammers have websites that look a lot like the government lending program. The BBB advises:

  • When in doubt, contact the government agency directly. If you receive a message that seems legitimate, but you aren’t sure, stop communicating with the person who contacted you. Then, verify their claims by contacting the government agency they say they represent. For details on the student loan forgiveness program, visit or
  • Never pay fees for a free government program. Government agencies will never ask you to pay a fee to benefit from a free government program. Don’t let scammers persuade you otherwise. Con artists may say the fee will get you relief faster or will unlock additional benefits, but that is all part of the scam.
  • Think twice about unsolicited calls, emails, or text messages. Usually, government agencies won’t reach out to you unless you request to be contacted. Out-of-the-blue communications are a red flag.
  • Don’t give in to scare tactics. If someone claims you’ll miss out if you don’t act immediately, be wary. This is an all-too-common tactic scammers use on their victims. Instead of responding, stop communications until you can verify what they say is true.

Bad drivers abound


This survey of a thousand people says we do not think much of our fellow drivers.

  • 1 out of 3 Americans says they encounter a bad driver every time they hit the road
  • 22% have had to call 911 about a bad driver
  • More than 1 in 10 are unable to identify a school zone road sign
  • 69% say they are distracted at stop lights and don’t pay attention to the road (changing the radio, checking GPS, eating, and texting are among the top distractions)

I may have a lower bar of expectation. I don’t see bad driving that often. Then again, maybe it is me that they are complaining about.

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Clarification: This article was updated to change a reference from “poll workers” to “local election officials” to clarify that poll volunteers are generally not facing threats. 

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
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