Accuracy in Media

NowThis published an article about the harassment of local elections offices using Carroll County, Ohio’s election division as an example. 

The article is one of a series of pieces about the midterms that alleges that the “right” in America is trying to upset the administration of elections, as you can see here and here. 

When asked by Accuracy in Media on details about the types of harassment the elections office had been subjected to, Carroll County’s Director of Elections, Nicole R. Mickley, told Accuracy in Media that the office has been threatened with civil and criminal penalties for not complying with records requests or for trying to destroy records. 

“In our case, the harassment being referred to has to do with the records request we have been receiving,” Mickley told Accuracy in  Media.  

“We have been very lucky not to have received any physical or verbal harassment or threats,” Mickley said. 

When pressed on whether she viewed records requests by the public as a form of harassment, Mickely said, yes, in this case she did. 

She said that she didn’t perceive normal records requests as harassment, but: 

“There has been a slew of requests however that go above and beyond a normal records request,” she said. “Their intent is to overwhelm election officials’ offices. For instance, records request that demand every single document, ballot, etc. from the 2020 elections. It will take weeks maybe even months for my small office to fulfill those requests in their entirety. Emails threatening lawsuits and criminal punishment for no reason. That is what I consider harassment.”

Our guess is that the intent of the records requests is to preserve the records of the election and provide transparency in the election process rather than to harass a county elections office that went 53 percent for Trump in 2020. 

In recent cycles, several outlets have reported on Americans’ concerns and waning trust in the election process. That problem will not be solved by election officials complaining about the inconvenience or onerous work of maintaining transparency.

When asked if election officials should view records requests as a form of harassment, former Ohio Secretary of State and Treasurer Ken Blackwell first chuckled, and then got serious. 

“Anyone who discourages transparency and openness of public records is an enemy to election integrity,” Blackwell told Accuracy in Media.  

Blackwell then said that he hopes that moves by both parties to include bipartisan representation in election administration will lessen the number of future records requests. 

“I’ve worked very closely with Frank LaRose, their (Ohio’s) current Secretary of State. He’s doing a full-court press to increase the number of citizens engaged at the precinct level,” Blackwell said. 

“There is a very aggressive recruitment project on both sides of the aisle to make sure all of those positions working elections are covered because Frank believes that transparency and civic engagement is the best way to rebuild confidence in the results of elections,” he concluded.  

Civic engagement includes people making records requests, Blackwell said. 

Far from being harassment, records requests are just part of the job. If the election division chief can’t handle it, she needs to find a new job. 

But more importantly, NowThis needs to stop selling the American people the idea that normal civic engagement under the law is noble when liberals do it and harassment when conservatives do it. 

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