Who are Local Election Officials and What do They Say About Elections?

Anita Manion, University of Missouri-St. Louis

Abstract

Given the central role that LEOs play in so many aspects of the American democratic system, our research takes a close look at the values, beliefs, and opinions that LEOs have about election integrity and reform, and how their opinions differ from the public at large. There are good reasons to expect that LEOs will think about these issues in different ways than the public. LEOs are more experienced and knowledgeable about voting laws and procedures than the average American; so, we would expect that their opinions are more firmly grounded. Because the public is less aware of election policies, they may be more prone to influence by rhetoric from elites (including politicians, party leaders, and organized interests). At the same time, it is not clear how much the expertise that a local official gains from conducting local elections insulates them from rhetoric about national election integrity or how LEOs formulate views about election procedures that aren’t in place in their state. In short, our research tries to identify ways that LEO values, beliefs, and opinions are distinct from the public at large, and ways that they think much like the public that they serve.