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Report: California election worker turnover has soared in recent years

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Suzanne Potter

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(California News Service) A new report showed turnover among California chief election officials reached 57 percent in 2022, a record high. It then declined this year to 40 percent.

Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles partnered with the Bipartisan Policy Center to analyze the data from 18,000 jurisdictions nationwide.

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Rachel Orey, senior associate director of the Elections Project for the Bipartisan Policy Center, said the jobs of election workers have become significantly harder in recent years.

"Today, election officials must manage everything from cybersecurity risks posed by foreign adversaries to people who are doubting the outcome of elections, to information technology, legal disputes, political pressures," Orey outlined.

The turnover rate is defined as the percentage of jurisdictions in a state where the chief local election official changed within the prior four years. It has been an issue in California for decades. The turnover rate stood at 41 percent back in 2004. But things got much worse after 2020, when election officials became targets of threats and harassment, often spurred by former President Donald Trump's evidence-free claims about a rigged election.

Orey noted she expects this year's presidential election to go smoothly, because dozens of states, including California, have done a lot to "beef up" the elections workforce.

"Sixty-five percent of local election officials have experience running a presidential election," Orey pointed out. "Where there are new officials, we find that they have an average of eight years of experience in an election office. So all in all, we see that election officials are well-prepared to administer the 2024 presidential election."

The report recommended better funding for elections offices, higher salaries and more training in order to attract and retain a highly skilled election workforce.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.