Former SLO County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong reflects on election denialism after 2020 election
Former San Luis Obispo County Clerk Recorder Tommy Gong made what he called a difficult decision to leave his position in 2021. At a League of Women Voters of The Bay Area meeting today, he reflected on the challenges he faced during the 2020 elections.
Gong served as SLO County’s Clerk-Recorder for six years. In 2020, he noticed a rise in election denialism.
According to Gong, the SLO County Republican Party put pressure on him to re-examine the election results, even after they were already certified and confirmed as correct. He said the relentless audit campaign played a part in his decision to step down from his role.
“No amount of explanation was sufficient to answer their questions,” Gong said. “It's still through a doubt in the system, and I don't know what the nexus of the doubt is other than that it's being spoon-fed to them in some way that has convinced them.”
Gong said during public comment at a May 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting, he was the target of election fraud conspiracy theories. One caller even asked if he was “a member of the Chinese Communist Party.”
He said he wasn’t prepared or equipped for this kind of harassment.
Gong announced his resignation a month later in June 2021 to become a deputy county clerk-recorder for Contra Costa County.
“I loved working in San Luis Obispo– I have to say– but it wasn't gonna be sustainable,” Gong said. “I was working in such a small office; my nose was to the grindstone every day, and it was like I never had a chance to look up and smell the roses.”
Gong said he believes smaller counties with less resources are more vulnerable to misinformation campaigns.
“Most counties have little to no budget for outreach and education,” Gong said. “We did notice smaller counties can greatly benefit from larger counties’ efforts.”
Last year, he testified to Congress about the lack of resources provided to election officials to combat voter fraud claims. Gong said he’s made it his mission to shed light on the importance of restoring faith in American democracy.
“I also advocated for some things such as adequate funding for election offices and also the need for voter education and outreach,” Gong said, “Especially in today's time as we're dealing with the mis- and dis-information.”
The League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County’s website is lwvslo.org.