Skip to main content

Poll workers described trauma symptoms during testimony

Mental health experts discuss the impetus behind death threats to workers and effects on them

EVANSTON, Ill. --- During the June 21 hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, poll workers testified about the violent threats on their lives after false claims that they had rigged the Fulton County, Georgia election in favor of Joe Biden.

Wandrea "Shaye" Moss, a former local elections worker in Fulton County, Georgia, testified that she had been employed as a poll worker for 10 years prior to the 2020 election, when she and her mother became the target of lies spread by President Trump and his allies as they sought to overturn the election results. Moss indicated that she and other election staff no longer feel safe doing this work when she told committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif) that none of the election workers pictured in the State Farm Arena surveillance video are still working for Fulton County.

Northwestern University psychology and psychiatry experts are available to discuss the impetus behind the threats of violence as well as the effects of trauma on mental health. 

Dr. Stephen Dinwiddie is chief of forensic psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He can be reached by contacting Marla Paul at

Quote from Dr. Dinwiddie
“​Rather than being significantly mentally ill, the individuals who make these death threats likely are mostly people who see themselves as unfairly treated, disempowered, excluded from society and from ​having a voice in governance. That combined with a ​conviction that certain political changes​ — ostensibly blocked by the object of their anger — would solve all their problems leads them to ​express threats ​of violence at least and ​express approval of more overt ​acts of violence. 

“The anonymity afforded by online communication allows people to make extravagant threats that they would be ​individually unlikely to carry out. The typical person ​who makes such anonymous threats doesn't act on them; we can say that because ​such threats are much more common than overt acts.  

“On the other hand, when​ threats of this sort become more commonplace, the risk of stochastic violence increases. ​Social norms become more and more stretched and, as such individuals perceive that they are a part of a community that thinks as they do, acts of violence become more acceptable to them.”   

Alexandra Solomon, is a clinical associate professor of psychology, an adjunct faculty member at the School of Education and Social Policy and a staff therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern. Her research and teaching focus includes relationships, family dynamics and relational self-awareness. She can be reached at

Quote from Alexandra Solomon
“We use the word trauma to describe the long-term impact of experiences that overwhelm our ability to cope, experiences that threaten our lives, our integrity, or the lives of the people around us. When people experience trauma, they can lose a basic sense of safety in the world. They may lose a sense of agency or control over themselves and their surroundings. They may experience emotions like numbness, fear, anger and sadness. They may experience hypervigilance and changes in behaviors like eating and sleeping. The changes that happen to the person because of trauma also affect that person's loved ones as well. Relationships can become tumultuous or distant in the wake of trauma. The poll workers who testified described many of the common symptoms of trauma, and these impacts are wholly understandable given the overwhelming and frightening experiences they endured in the wake of Trump's election loss.”