'A nationally coordinated effort': Election officials concerned about 'insider threats' as midterms approach

'A nationally coordinated effort': Election officials concerned about 'insider threats' as midterms approach
Staff Sgt. Zach Zenk, an avionics technician with the 115th Fighter Wing, processes absentee ballots at the Mount Horeb Public Library during the Aug. 11 election in Mount Horeb, Wis. Nearly 700 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard mobilized to serve as poll workers across 40 Wisconsin counties. Wisconsin National Guard photo by SMSgt. Larkin Wilde

Election officials are sounding the alarm and expressing their concerns about the possibility of looming threats and security obstacles as midterm elections approach. However, these concerns are a bit different from the 2020 presidential election because the threats aren't just coming from disgruntled Republican voters but rather, "inside the election system itself," Politico reports.

Speaking on the sidelines at the National Association of Secretaries of State’s conference this summer, a number of election officials in multiple states have shared their concerns about the threats looming over midterm elections. In addition to security breaches, election officials are facing other issues as well.

Politico pointed to the recent occurrence in New Mexico where the Republican-led Otero County board of commissioners "refused to certify primary election results, citing unfounded claims about the security of voting machines that are rooted in conspiracy theories about hacked election equipment from the 2020 election," the news outlet reported.

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“What’s clear is this is a nationally coordinated effort,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D). “It’s multi-year, multi-faceted … not just pressuring election officials, but pressuring local elected officials as well.”

Many election officials are concerned that the incidents that have occurred over the last two years may set a dangerous precedent ahead of the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 presidential election. “It can create a domino effect, because if one county successfully manages to tank their election by not certifying it, we’re gonna see copycats,” said New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D).

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) also weighed in with her concerns about the rise of suspected insider threats. “We always had various redundancies and protocols in place to minimize against the prospect of an insider threat … But I think how it’s changed is preparing,” said Griswold.

In Oregon, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan (D) detailed some of the challenges election officials are facing in her state. “Our counties were like, ‘We’re getting inundated with calls for these crazy Arizona fraudits,'” said Fagan.

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Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon (D) expressed concern about the consequences that could lie ahead. “If you click on a bad email? We’re only as good as our weakest link,” said Simon. “It can be some county far away. It’s always possible that it could set in motion some unintended consequences that could affect other places.”

However, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) offered a different perspective on the potential impact of insider threats. “It would be very difficult for someone to completely disrupt what is happening statewide,” said Bellows. “What’s concerning is that those stories start to undermine public confidence.”

Per Politico, Republican officials are less concerned. Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson (R), who also serves as the chief election official in her state, admitted that she's "not concerned."

“For the most part, as far as the motivations of the new clerks, I’m not concerned,” said Henderson. “What I am concerned about is making sure they’re adequately trained, especially when the staff that has been there for a long time, that understands the processes, are quitting as well.”

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Highlighted the silver lining that ultimately thwarted efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Michigan’s Benson warned the same may not hold true in 2022.

“We were very fortunate in 2020 that no sitting secretary bought into the Stop the Steal effort,” Benson said. “I don’t think we’ll get that lucky again.”

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