Are you in a toxic relationship with your Secretary of State, Election Commission, or legislators?

If you have been working on election integrity for the past 2 years plus you likely suffer from what I like to call ETB (Election Trauma Bond) an annoying, painful disorder that goes along with being in a toxic relationship with people who display signs of narcissism or other cluster B personalities. Anyone who has experienced a toxic relationship will readily recognize these signs. If you have experienced even a few of these phases you likely have ETB:

Fast courtship: In this stage, the agency officials act as though they are interested in your concerns. They attempt to address your issues while assuring you that they have everything under control. They provide a great “dog and pony” show that illustrates that the elections are “secure,” “done mostly right,” and that, “you have no reason to worry. They have it covered.”

But of course, in your gut you don’t trust them. Something seems off. There are red flags.  The facts seem to suggest otherwise which brings you to the next phase.

Gaslighting and control: During this stage, you are consistently told things that are contrary to what your own eyes are telling you—the voter rolls are clean. ERIC (the Electronic Registration and information Center) does a fine job of helping the state clean the rolls. Trump won so all is fine in South Carolina. The machines aren’t connected to the internet. That is all a conspiracy theory.

However, your team has personally gathered the evidence that proves otherwise. You knocked on doors where people hadn’t lived in years but somehow managed to vote from that address. You researched the obituaries of people who were able to magically vote post mortem. You drove past registered addresses that were not legal domiciles—graveyards, shops, vacant lots, post offices.  You have seen machines without security seals, sloppy election day processes, inconsistent adherence to election laws.

The county and state election officials and law enforcement reply that there may be fraud or irregularities; but it is not easy to prove and not enough to change any results. Hmmm. You start thinking you are the one who is delusional, but you know better. They try to judge your every move and control what you can see and how and when you can see it. You want to view the polls on election day? Sorry, you need to sit in this chair on the far side of the room where you can’t even view the process or machines. You want to observe the audits post-election? Wait in this room until we tell  you what the results are. Or maybe they tell you it starts at noon but you show up then and they have already finished their audit.

Abuse and Discard:  Just when you think you may have enough evidence to really convince your legislators or your state agency in charge of elections, they discard you. Suddenly, your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are ignored, delayed indefinitely, or they claim they don’t exist.  You apply to be a poll worker and are denied even though they are still looking for help. But wait, I am the one you want, you think. I have in depth knowledge of the processes and systems. I am most qualified. Nope. They are on to their next supply—the person who is naïve to their ways and knows as little as possible about their system.  Or perhaps they recruit nonprofits to “adopt a polling place” and put them in charge. Yes, that is a thing.

The Silent treatment: At this point you are pretty frustrated but still want to engage with your election agency. After all what are your other options? You need them. They are in charge. They are in control. You are powerless. They are now ghosting you and perhaps they respond to you occasionally just to keep you thinking they actually care or are adequately doing their job. They don’t. 

This is when you think you need to quit but you don’t. Why? Because the best revenge against the toxic partner or partnership is to win. To succeed.  You are not weak. You are not stupid. You know their game. So, you fight harder, stronger, and become the inner warrior you were always meant to be.  The truth is worth fighting for and it always has a way of coming to light.

I applaud all the election integrity grassroots volunteers out there.  I feel your pain. We have traveled this road for a long time and we fight for every vote—- for democrats and republicans, independents and libertarians, for young and old, voters of all races, religions.  You are the light; you are the answer, you are appreciated and you will prevail.

Elections are the foundation of our republic. There is no option to quit.  You are worth it and so is your state and your country.  You too can survive ETB. You deserve a better system, better legislators who listen and act, a better election agency who cares about the sanctity of your vote rather than preserving a flawed system, and an executive branch that truly cares about clean elections.

Let’s hope we can find new non-toxic partners in the future so we can finally have trust and confidence in our elections.