2020 LOCAL ELECTION OFFICIAL SURVEY RESULTS
Protect Our Election conducted nationwide research to identify the most impactful ways to support local election officials. Here's what we found.
Democracy prevailed in 2020.
The 2020 election cycle pushed our system of self-governance closer to the breaking point than any in living memory. And despite facing an unprecedented confluence of challenges, America's election officials pulled off the most secure election in our nation's history.
They made the most of inadequate funding, they installed safety measures to guard against COVID-19, they turned a potential shortage of poll workers into a surplus, they strengthened our cyber defenses, they fought disinformation, and they withstood a manipulative domestic political assault that called their competence and patriotism into question.
We owe them our gratitude – and we ought to start listening to them.
Protect Our Election’s 2020 Local Election Official Research Survey is an attempt to capture post-election feedback from the people on the ground who power our democracy. It is an attempt to draw out what they need to ensure continued success, and an honest effort to measure their priorities. We view this report as a collaborative guide forward – a first step, but, we hope, an actionable one - for those interested in preserving the health of American democracy by strengthening the local institutions on which it stands.
Our most notable findings ring true across all jurisdictions and states. Based on this direct feedback from local election officials (LEOs) on the ground, we can affirmatively draw the following conclusions:
The 2020 election cycle impacted the way LEOs feel about their role in our democracy, with nearly a third of respondents saying they are considering a career change;
In a concerning development for our democracy, LEOs reported feeling inappropriate partisan pressure from voters, party organizers, and elected officials at the state and federal level;
LEOs felt that they had enough time to count and report accurate results, but a majority lacked staff support and funding throughout the cycle;
Unsurprisingly, LEOs received a far higher number of public inquiries during the 2020 election cycle;
Roughly half of our LEOs lack the time and resources to engage in proactive voter communications on digital platforms;
Our LEOs roundly approved of the state-level assistance they received specific to COVID-19, but were not as complimentary about federal efforts;
There is a distinct gap between the level of confidence our LEOs felt in their state’s mail-in voting procedures and the perceived effectiveness of voter communication efforts related to mail-in voting;
Security issues were a larger focus for LEOs in 2020, with large majorities reporting effective cybersecurity training and roughly half taking measures to prepare for the potential of domestic terrorism;
75% of LEOs in our survey report receiving public funds via the CARES Act, with 43% receiving grant money from non-governmental sources;
Opinions are mixed on election reform efforts currently underway at the state and federal level, with most LEOs preferring a combination of action at all levels of government;
The body of this report - available here as a PDF - provides the data that drove these conclusions, and more, via a combination of quantitative data and qualitative comments from the LEOs who participated.
It doesn’t take reams of survey data to look back at 2020 and conclude it was an election year that stretched our democracy thin. Our state and local election officials delivered the safest and most secure election in American history, all while facing unprecedented conditions and unwarranted partisan pressure.
This survey data does, however, help to surface tangible takeaways from 2020 as viewed through the lens of local election administration:
A significant subset of our local election offices need help navigating digital communications and engaging voters online.
Local election offices would benefit from a national clearinghouse of private grant opportunities and would welcome assistance in pre-qualifying the most relevant for their needs.
County-level election offices are eager for the chance to collaborate and coordinate across county and state lines.
Our local election officials are increasingly frustrated by the national narrative and would welcome a proactive advocacy campaign designed to combat disinformation and educate the public.
This analysis is just one preparatory step in an effort that must not wane anytime soon if we expect our democracy, and the people who power it, to flourish. Pro-democracy voices of all shapes and sizes must come together to identify and execute proper solutions.
Protect Our Election is currently working to address all four of the above points. We’re developing pro bono services and tools to assist with voter communications and grant application, and we’re working directly with local election officials to build a movement designed to elevate civil servants everywhere.
Democracy is not dead yet. It just needs a little help.
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Inquiries about this survey should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.