LaRose: Voter apathy may well doom the future of elections

Louisiana might not have seen the intimidation of voters and threats against election officials that have taken place in other states, but it doesn’t mean our state is invulnerable. 

One pressing matter seen locally is the lack of election commissioners to staff polling locations. With early voting creating more demand, the already thin ranks of poll workers have been stretched further in recent years. 

Perhaps nowhere is the problem more acute than the Lake Charles area, where Calcasieu Parish Clerk of Court Lynn Jones said earlier this year he could only find about a third of the commissioners he needed for the previous election cycle. Hurricanes Laura and Delta accelerated already declining numbers, he said. 

Rosalind Cook of New Orleans is a longtime election commissioner and in the leadership of the local League of Women Voters chapter. She acknowledges poll workers at her precinct are predominantly older people, and she’s heard from Orleans Parish elections officials this is the case elsewhere.

“The number of commissioners that are over the age is relatively high, so people do tend to leave,” Cook said. “At some point, there is the need to replace (them).”  

There’s been ample emphasis on the impact younger voters could have on the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections. It would seem the infrastructure of democracy could use their help as well. Elections officials would do well to reach out to millennials to bolster the ranks of their polling place workplace. 

What doesn’t help are efforts from the political establishment that only serve to undermine confidence in elections. In Texas, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has investigated election workers for claims of obstructing “poll watchers,” typically far-right activists without any official capacity to be involved in the election process.  

According to ProPublica, what started as a single complaint from a local GOP chairman has turned into multiple probes. So far, Paxton has failed to secure indictments in at least two of those cases, with the outcome of eight others unknown. Out of 390 election-related criminal prosecutions from the AG’s office since January 2020 – with voters and elections workers as defendants – Paxton has secured only five convictions. 

The continued proliferation of unfounded election fraud claims – and the support they receive from entrenched elected officials and notable candidates — is a definite dissuasion for poll workers, new and veteran alike. When they realize the most prominent pointman for The Big Lie is the My Pillow guy, you’d think deniers would commence a serious self-assessment.  

Until this conspiracy-fueled quackery is sent back to the fringes where it belongs, it will be difficult to muster enthusiasm among those who want to lend their credibility to elections.

These threats are very real, and the future holds much jeopardy if the only response is apathy.

Greg LaRose is editor of Louisiana Illuminator

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