Don’t let anyone tell you democracy is easy.

In Maine, choosing our next slate of leaders depends on the diligence and integrity of state elections staff and hundreds of municipal clerks, plus the 6,000 or so volunteer poll workers who sign voters in, collect their ballots and count them.

And it’s not getting any easier. Not only are election workers dealing with increasingly complex ballots, they have to do so under the threat of violence from people who believe, against all evidence, that elections are rigged.

That belief has come following years of attempts by Republicans to cast their elections losses as the fault of a corrupt system, again with absolutely no

Capitol Riot

FILE – Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. . (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

evidence. It has been institutionalized by former President Trump, who refuses to admit his loss in the 2020 election and continues to push a series of warped claims on how it was “rigged.”

None of those claims stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. Yet they have become articles of faith with his supporters, who make up such a significant portion of Republican voters that every party candidate has to follow along.


So whether these candidates actually believe Trump’s ridiculous lies or not, they have to repeat them, or at least pay them respect they don’t deserve. They have to attack election workers and cast aspersions on our incredibly well-run election system to have a chance. Republican candidates here in Maine have followed along.


After years of shameful attacks on voting, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a majority of Republicans believe President Biden’s win was illegitimate — really, that anytime one of their opponents wins, it’s because of fraud.

And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, after Trump and a number of other Republicans spent so much time defaming election workers — and reveling in the anger that it caused — that those election workers would become targets.

Throughout the country, election workers, both Republican and Democrat, have been threatened and harassed by people whose only understanding of vote counting comes from the lies being perpetuated by Trump and his supporters. In some states, election workers have been the targets of official investigations in an attempt to intimidate them.

Fellow Mainers who give up their time to help run elections have been targeted for abuse as well, including at least one clerk who received a death threat.


A 2021 survey found that 1 in 3 election officials feels unsafe in their job. Many plan to retire soon, if they haven’t left the profession already, stripping our cities and towns of the experience necessary to run seamless elections.

Last session, the Legislature passed into law a bill from Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, that increased the penalty for interfering in an election. It’s not a cure-all, but other states should do the same.


Instead, where Republicans are in power, legislators have been busy making it harder to vote, using unsupported claims of voter fraud to cut back on ballot access in ways they believe will favor them electorally.

Whatever that is, it’s not democracy. Nor is the effort to put election deniers in positions of power over elections – with the expectation that they do what they can to disregard votes they don’t agree with.

If that sounds far-fetched, you haven’t been paying attention. These are the same people who orchestrated the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 with the expressed purpose of stopping the peaceful transfer of power and keeping an unelected president in power.


These are also the people who, with the same goal in mind, pressured then-Vice President Pence to overturn the election and cooked up an illegal and un-American scheme to use fake electors to keep Trump in the White House.

These are the same people who are preparing now to cast as much doubt as possible on the results of the upcoming election so that their supporters are primed and ready to respond with anger and violence — again — to results that don’t go their way. In just one strategy, Republicans have fought against early counting of votes, then complained that something’s wrong when all ballots aren’t counted on election night. Their supporters have fallen for it.

We can’t depend on the Americans lost to this way of thinking to change their minds. We can’t depend on the leaders they follow to stop undermining elections with such shameless lies.

All we can do is hope that there are enough Americans who still believe in free and fair elections — and that, on Nov. 8 and after, they stand alongside election workers as defenders of democracy.

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