• Sun. Nov 28th, 2021


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2020 Election Spurs Resignations and Retirements of Officials

Ms. Clark, the head of the Michigan clerks’ association, said she believed that the pace of departures there would be influenced by the fate of Republican-backed legislation that would tighten voting rules and restrict election officials’ authority.

And in Iowa, the Republican-controlled legislature voted this spring to shorten early-voting periods, clamp down on absentee ballot rules, sharply limit ballot drop boxes — and take aim at the county auditors who run elections. One clause eliminates much of their ability to take steps to make voting easier. Another makes it a felony to disregard election guidance from the secretary of state and levies fines of up to $10,000 for “technical infractions” of their duties.

In Davenport, Ms. Moritz said, the pandemic and election-fraud drumbeat all but upended preparations for last year’s election. Tensions rose after she sparred with the Republican-run county board of supervisors over accepting donations to offset rising election costs.

When poll workers were hired, she said, she checked with officials to make sure there was enough money in her $80-million-a-year budget to cover hazard pay. But the supervisors had set their pay at $12 an hour, and she failed to ask them for permission to increase it.

Ms. Moritz says she made a mistake. “Nobody benefited from it but the poll workers,” she said. Two weeks after the election, when the county attorney called to tell her the pay was being investigated, she said, “I literally puked in my garbage can.”

The supervisors have said their inquiry was not politically motivated, and the state auditor, a Democrat, is looking into the misstep. But in the storm of publicity that followed the supervisors’ inquiry, Ms. Moritz said, she began to receive threats. And any thought of staying on vanished after the legislature began to consider reining in auditors’ powers and penalizing them for errors like hers.

“People are starting to second-guess if this is the profession they want to be in,” she said. “It was always a stressful job, and now it’s more so. And all these things coming down the pipe make it worse.”

Susan C. Beachy contributed research.