Terry Hamilton left his job running elections in Texas wine country because he was fed up with the harassment that followed the election.
This was not a normal exit.
It was not only Hamilton who quit this month, but also the only other full-time election worker in the county. Less than 70 days before the start of voting, the local elections department suddenly emptied.
There was no one left at the elections office by the middle of last week. There is a poster hanging in a window.
A scramble is underway to train replacements and ground them in layers of new Texas voting laws that are amongst the strictest in the U.S. The headaches go on.
The resignations have made the county, which overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election, an example of how threats to election officials can affect a community. Voting experts and officials are worried that a new wave of harassment will return in November, fueled by false claims of widespread fraud.
He didn't want to go through it again after clashing with poll watchers in the past.
That's the only thing we can't comprehend. The candidate won a lot. There's fraud here.
He refused to discuss the nature of the threats in a phone interview and referred to the county attorney who did not reply to a phone message. The sheriff said his department had not received any information about the threats.
Anissa Herrera, the former county elections administrator, resigned. She said that she had been called out on social media. It's dangerous misinformation.
Local election officials have left their jobs due to death threats, harassment and accusations. The United States Department of Justice launched a task force last year to address threats against election officials.
They are familiar to many election workers in Texas, which has been at the forefront of a Republican campaign to tighten election laws in response to Trump's baseless claims. It is easy to find supporters in the scenic Texas Hill Country, which is a short day trip from the state's liberal capital in Austin. Trump won the county with 80% of the votes.
Mo Saiidi, chairman of the Gillespie County GOP, was surprised by the resignations. A lack of support from the county was one of the issues that weighed on the office. He stepped down as a write-in candidate for county treasurer because he decided to run as a write-in candidate.
Funding is believed to have played a part. Saiidi said that they had some differences and couldn't come to a conclusion, so they quit.
According to a survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, one in three election officials know someone who has left a job in part because of threats and intimidation.
According to the president of the Texas Association of Elections Administrators, at least 37 election administrators have left their previous positions since the 2020 election. Some counties in Texas do not have election administration offices.
In Texas, threats aren't the only thing making the job harder. A new voting law gives election workers criminal charges if they deny access to partisan poll watchers. More than 23,000 mail ballots were thrown out in Texas during the first-in-the-nation primary in March because of new restrictions on mail voting.
It shows how difficult it will be for a new staff to get up to speed in a hurry. Saiidi said the county clerk and tax assessors have been discussed as possible fill-ins.
In the past, her workers could take angry calls if voters blew off steam. She said that they have to take everything seriously in this climate.
Less than 24 hours after the office in Gillespie County officially closed, the resignations were front of mind at a pavilion, where Democrat Beto O'Rourke was campaigning for governor.
The election was still in good hands, but Roger Norman said there were threats. Outside, at a counter rally of Trump supporters, a welder said he had no concerns with elections in the heavily conservative county and that he was interested in the polls.
A lot of people have volunteered.
The deadlines in his old office are getting closer.
He said that they did not think we did anything. They will be able to see what we did.