PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty
The country's poll workers are gearing up for what could be a contentious moment in U.S. history: the upcoming midterm elections.
Amid ongoing investigations into former President Donald Trump — and a number of elections that feature his endorsed candidates on the ballot — the Associated Press reports that election workers are worried about aggressive poll watchers, individuals appointed by a political party who are meant to observe voters.
According to the AP, some election workers have had to physically confront poll watchers who have attempted to get in the way of people's right to vote. Others simply find it hard to do their job at all.
"It becomes complete babysitting," Wayne County, N.C., election director Anne Risku told the outlet. "The back and forth for the precinct officials, having somebody constantly on you for every little thing that you do — not because you're doing it wrong, but because they don't agree with what you're doing."
Risku told the AP she has ordered more security ahead of the November elections and raised the pay of precinct officials, but still worries many won't return.
The worries are particularly pronounced considering the conspiracy theories that continue to plague U.S. elections in the wake of Trump's 2020 loss.
Though Trump lost both the electoral and popular votes, he has continued to claim — without evidence — that the election was stolen from him. Many of his supporters have followed suit, casting doubt on the election system, even as attempts to decertify the 2020 election failed in courts throughout the country.
As former election director in Georgia Chris Harvey explained to the AP, swarms of Trump supporters showed up to polls in the state after Trump claimed the election was being stolen, harassing workers in the process.
"The whole tension that we're expecting to see at polling places is something we're talking to election officials about, something we're talking to law enforcement about," Harvey told the outlet.
One month out from the midterms, election workers fear a repeat, particularly as thousands of potential poll workers have received poll watching certification in the weeks leading up to voting day.
In a Senate Judiciary hearing held in August, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite said the Justice Department has reviewed more than 1,000 threats against election officials in the last year since a task force was created to examine threats against state and local officials who run elections.
About 10% of the complaints the task force received warranted criminal investigations, Polite said, according to The Washington Post.
"The trauma experienced in this community," Polite told the lawmakers, "is profound and unprecedented."
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Some poll workers have detailed the threats an abuse they faced following the last election.
During a hearing of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, election workers on either side of the aisle addressed the rhetoric of those who still have not accepted the results of the 2020 election won by now-President Joe Biden.
Al Schmidt, a Republican city commissioner on the Philadelphia Board of Elections, told the committee he received several threats, including one that said: "Tell the truth or your three kids will be fatally shot," along with the names of his children, his address and a photo of his home.
Schmidt also noted that the threats were not empty, citing an instance in which two men with guns and ammunition were arrested outside a Pennsylvania convention center — where election operations were consolidated — in an attempt to intercept "counterfeit" ballots that they believed were headed to the center to be counted.
"They, like many others were lied to, and deceived and deranged by those lies," Schmidt said. "And for what? To discredit an election that wasn't even close."