Maribeth Witzel-Behl had run elections in Madison, Wisconsin, for 15 years when the 2020 election arrived, bringing challenges like no other: a global pandemic, a crushing workload, lawsuits and a recount.
Then the threats started. Wisconsin rules require the initials of the municipal clerk to appear on absentee ballots, but during a recount last November, people noticed her initials and seized on them as a sign that some kind of mischief must have occurred.
An online discussion thread began weighing the weapons and ammunition to use against her, Witzel-Behl said. There was also discussion of lynching.
So, when it came time to renew her employment contract, she struggled.
“Every day for over a year, I just kept going back and forth,” the 47-year-old said recently. “Is it worth it? Is it time to do something else where there is less stress, more reasonable work hours and certainly no death threats?”
Last month, Witzel-Behl decided to commit to another five years in her post. But her dilemma underscores the difficult choices election supervisors face as they increasingly become political targets in an era of widespread falsehoods about election fraud. Experts in the field fear a massive exodus of administrators that would change how elections are run — and threaten democracy itself. [Continue reading…]