Nebraska

Nebraska officials who handle our elections, direct public health and educate our children are under constant pressure and threats

Tuesday, a trio of national experts took turns discussing the escalating threats and violence directed at those who oversee our elections, public health, and education.

Three Nebraska election officials stated that their state is not immune to the same tendencies identified in the “Elections and the Threat of Violence” conference hosted by the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s national counterterrorism center.

“It’s gotten a little more arduous and difficult. Since 2016, Douglas County’s election commissioner Brian Kruse has stated, “We’re certainly under increased scrutiny.”

‘More difficult’

Tracy Overstreet, election commissioner for Hall County, remarked, “There is no comparison with what it has become today.”

“It’s more difficult in so many ways today,” said Dave Shively, the Lancaster County Election Commissioner, who is leaving his position in January.

While Nebraska authorities say they have not experienced the threats and intimidation that have prompted election workers to flee states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, there have been obstacles:

In September 2020, a suspicious device resembling a bomb was addressed to the Hall County Election Commissioner’s Office, necessitating the building’s evacuation.

Nebraska election officials have been bombarded with requests for public records related to bogus claims of significant voting fraud during the 2020 elections. Ofttimes, according to officials, the requests are “cookie-cutter” duplicates or identical to previously submitted ones. In June, a guy from Lincoln pled guilty to sending threats to an election official in Colorado on his Instagram page. Lincoln resident Travis Ford, age 42, faces up to two years in jail.

Some unwilling to work at the polls

The three Nebraska election officials reported that the COVID-19 outbreak prompted some poll workers to resign, but they are also observing a reluctance on the part of certain individuals to volunteer for election work due to countrywide harassment and threats.

“Let’s hope Nebraskans continue to be ‘Nebraska Nice,'” Kruse remarked, alluding to a former state tourist slogan.

A representative for the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office concurred with the three local authorities that the majority of voters have confidence in their local county clerks and election commissioners and, with a few exceptions, show deference while seeking answers to their inquiries.

Cindi Allen of the Secretary of State’s Office, however, stated that the deluge of records requests includes requests for documents that local election officials “do not own and are not required to possess.”

Must evaluate a ‘differing perspective’

Overstreet, a former newspaper reporter, stated that her county attorney has joked about setting a limit on the number of requests for election records that his agency must fulfill.

She stated that the requests add to the increasing workload and that new security measures must be considered.

Previously, Hall County utilized a metal post office box as its early ballot drop box, but now the county uses a box that is more securely bolted to the ground, has a built-in fire extinguisher and liner (to prevent urination), has a more secure lock, and is watched 24/7 by a video camera.

Overstreet stated, “We must view everything in a different light.” “We haven’t experienced any problems locally, but we must be aware of what’s happening around the country.”

The National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology and Education Center (NCITE) at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) sponsored the lecture on Tuesday by three researchers who are using federal money to investigate the threat of election-related violence.

2020 election polarizing

Peter Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University who has written about white supremacist groups, asserts that the 2020 presidential election and the growing skepticism of public institutions and the news media have accelerated a tendency that began during the Watergate era.

The previous president fueled worries of “rigged elections,” which culminated in the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, according to Simi.

Threats against public authorities, such as those dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, are part of a wider problem, he added, referring to it as “a phase of daily insurgency.”

Such threats, according to Simi, can be dismissed as a “nuisance” propagated by “a few nutjobs,” but they can be powerful instruments to intimidate and depress voting, even if the threat is never carried out.

Professor of criminal justice at Temple University, Steven Windisch, asserts that death threats against public figures are grossly underreported.

Dozens embrace ‘giant lie’

While the current president of the United States isn’t yelling “stop the theft,” dozens of congressional candidates are embracing the “huge lie” about voter fraud in the 2020 election in their 2022 campaigns, according to him.

Iris Malone, a political scientist at George Washington University, was less pessimistic, stating that overt violence is uncommon and that some elements that led to the violence on January 6 are no longer existent. COVID- Malone stated that there are no longer 19 lockdowns, and that midterm elections generate less engagement and emotion overall.

She continued, “There is still the possibility of vigilante justice. It only takes one person.”

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