Trump fans weaponize records requests to “overwhelm” election workers and “destabilize” midterms

"It is happening all over the country," election official says. "County officials are drowning"

Published September 12, 2022 1:00PM (EDT)

Election personnel check in provisional ballots at the Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections offices on November 7, 2020 in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Election personnel check in provisional ballots at the Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections offices on November 7, 2020 in Lawrenceville, Georgia. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

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Election officials across the U.S. are facing what many believe appears to be a coordinated effort to overwhelm their offices just as employees are mailing out absentee ballots and preparing for the 2022 midterms—and critics say the deluge of requests hitting election offices is the work of prominent supporters of former President Donald Trump.

As The Washington Post reported Sunday, election workers in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and other states have spent much of their time in recent weeks fielding requests for an array of documents related to the 2020 election, which Trump continues to claim was fraudulent.

Although many counties have published electronic images of all ballots cast in 2020, election offices are receiving demands for documents including poll books, spoiled ballots, remade ballots, voter registration applications, and cast vote records—a record of everything scanned by voting machines, which high-profile election deniers say could help identify ballots that they baselessly claim were switched from votes for Trump to President Joe Biden.

Election workers are bound by law to respond to records requests, which government watchdogs agree serve a vital purpose in ensuring a transparent, fair democratic system.

"They should not be used to harass or overwhelm a system as these coordinated requests from Trump supporters to local election offices appear intended to do," said Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), on Monday.

Workers in the Bureau of Elections in Michigan has spent roughly 600 hours processing public records requests this year, while the midterm elections require that they hire poll workers, send out ballots to absentee voters and members of the military, secure polling locations, and make other preparations for voting, which starts as early as late September in some states.

Officials in Wisconsin told The Post that monthly records requests are coming in four times more frequently than in 2020, and the election office in Brunswick County, North Carolina has received 10 to 15 since mid-August.

In Maricopa County, Arizona, workers have fielded an unprecedented amount of requests for cast vote records. Trump backer Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, called on supporters to request the records at an event in August, according to the voting rights news organization Votebeat.

"In 2021, 11 requests came in for the cast vote record," reported Votebeat last week. "In 2022, up through August 25, the county has gotten more than 90, with more coming in every day." 

In Brunswick County, one official told The Post, a request for absentee ballot envelopes sent a worker to an off-site warehouse for an entire day, cutting down on time to dedicate to setting up polling locations.

Some of the requests have included admissions that the constituent is acting at the urging of Lindell and other Trump supporters, according to The Post. Many also include identical language, including threats to sue election bureaus their their "involvement in the fraudulent elections that will soon be proven to have taken place since 2017."

Matt Crain of the Colorado County Clerks Association told The Post that Trump supporters appear to be waging "a denial-of-service attack on local government," rendering election offices unable to perform their usual work of organizing the election that's set to take place in just eight weeks.

Election officials in dozens of counties across nearly two dozen states have been inundated with the requests.

"It is happening all over the country," tweeted Sara Tindall Ghazal, a state election board member in Georgia. "County officials are drowning. And in some cases, when the requester does not like the response they get, they become belligerent and threatening."

The apparently coordinated attack on election offices comes as election workers face other forms of harassment following the 2020 election, with 1 in 5 saying earlier this year that they planned to quit due to the threats.

The barrage of requests is straining an already "overloaded system," said Leslie Proll, senior director of the voting rights program at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

By Julia Conley

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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