High election worker turnover troubling sign as 2024 approaches

Eric Tegethoff | Public News Service
Outgoing election officials in Idaho took with them 68 years of combined experience. Photo Credit: Eldon / Adobe Stock

High turnover rates are plaguing local elections offices across the West, which is causing concern as the 2024 election approaches.

recent study found about 40% of chief election officials in western states have left office since November 2020. Idaho and Washington saw the lowest turnover, each at 23%.

Michael Beckel, research director for Issue One, the organization behind the research, said the Idaho officials who left oversaw a large portion of the state’s population.

“In Idaho, about 40% of the state’s population will see the election administered by somebody different than who administered the last presidential election,” Beckel reported.

In Issue One’s study, Arizona saw the highest turnover in election officials by far, at 80% since November 2020.

Beckel noted elections are complex and technical to administer, requiring experience to do so effectively. According to his organization’s research, officials who left office in the past three years took 1,800 years of combined experience with them.

Beckel added the knowledge would have been valuable during the high pressure election season.

“There’s a real risk that if there are innocuous mistakes,” Beckel emphasized. “Innocent errors that get made in this political environment, those types of minor administrative mistakes could get blown out of proportion, turned into new conspiracy theories that cause people to lose faith in the elections process.”

Beckel argued election officials need more resources and his organization has pushed Congress to invest in critical election infrastructure. He stressed politicians have a role in ensuring elections run smoothly.

“It would be really incumbent on a lot of our political leaders to take that temperature down, to ratchet down the rhetoric,” Beckel urged. “Remind people about all of the checks and balances that are in place, all of the transparency measures that are in place.”

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