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Virtual Summit: Continuing Threats to Free and Fair Elections

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Elections are more than ballots, polling places, and voting machines. The human component of administering elections was exposed to unthinkable stress and attack during the 2020 cycle. It nearly reached the breaking point.

Whether it was persistent and recurring misinformation and disinformation, threats to the personal safety of full-time and volunteer elections office staff, or challenges to the independence of the voting process by political actors, our country is hurtling towards a cliff of retirements of the people who understand voting more than any others. Without dedicated and knowledgeable staff ready and willing to run elections, easy access to a secure ballot cannot be guaranteed for anyone.

The Brennan Center, the Ash Center, and the Bipartisan Policy Center invite you to explore the challenges to voting in America and necessary solutions.

Panel 1 – Election officials and elections under attack

Election officials are the heart of the system. Increasingly, they are being targeted by those unhappy with election outcomes. Organized mis/disinformation campaigns launched for the purpose of undermining confidence in our elections inevitably place blame on election administrators and, not surprisingly, these efforts have resulted in credible death threats against state and local election officials across the country. Without a swift and effective response, these mis/disinformation campaigns will lead to a growing number of Americans who do not give their consent to be governed by duly elected officials and physical harm, or worse, to our election officials.


Matthew Masterson
Non-resident Policy Fellow, Stanford Internet Observatory


Natalie Adona
Assistant Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters, Nevada County (CA)

Katie Harbath
BPC Elections Fellow

Gowri Ramachandran
Brennan Center

Al Schmidt
City Commissioner, Philadelphia

Panel 2 – Election official independence and sustainability

The 2020 cycle was/continues to be the biggest election administration challenge in modern history. Despite the pandemic, chronic underfunding, public – and private – pressure from candidates and their supporters to engage in illegal or improper acts, our election officials rose to the occasion, conducting “the most secure election in American history.” Yet, in many states partisan leaders have not responded by rewarding these stewards of our democracy, rather many lawmakers unhappy with election outcomes have responded by usurping the authority traditionally vested in our trusted local and state election officials, defunding their operations, and criminalizing administrative errors by poll workers and election officials. It all leads to accelerating retirements for a profession already beset by low pay and long hours. The human element of elections is vital and must be protected.


Lisa Danetz
Brennan Center

Chris Hollins
Former Clerk, Harris County (TX)

Aaron Ockerman
Executive Director, Ohio Association of Election Officials

Justin Roebuck
County Clerk, Ottawa County (MI)

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