Democratic-run states move to protect election workers

Spitting.

death threats.

Threatening to call.

They are not expected when they appear to vote on Election Day, but they have become a regular occurrence amid a steady decline from the 2020 election.

We’ve covered the issue in a previous newsletter, but since then, a handful of Democratic-led states have enacted laws to protect election workers, while others are considering similar bills.

Most of these measures relate to creating new criminal penalties for hiding and harassing election workers’ identity information.

For example, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law in late March that makes it a felony to harass election workers online. The new law also allows election workers and their families to hide their addresses if they are the targets of threats.

A similar bill was recently enacted in Oregon, and the Maine legislature passed similar protections last week.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in California, Colorado and Vermont are considering bills in the same vein.
Supporters say such laws are necessary as election workers continue to face threats and harassment. The US Department of Justice has so far arrested two people for threatening workers. Back in January, the DOJ said it had received more than 850 referrals on such possible crimes.

Supporters of the laws also argue that the new protections would help strengthen the democratic process.

Many of these measures are intended to protect not only the individuals running elections, but also election workers – individuals who voluntarily work long hours for a few days a year and are often paid very little. The people who sign up to become election workers are usually local residents who want to do their part to help the election run smoothly. According to a report from the Pew Research Center from April 2020, poll workers are older, most of them 60 or older.

Maine State Rep. Bruce White, the sponsor of the law in the Pine Tree State, who also volunteers as a polling activist, told Kelly that the atmosphere at polling places in recent years “seems to be a little tense and uncomfortable at times.” White hopes his legislation, which is awaiting the signature of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, will bring an added sense of relief to election workers.

“Some people say the law doesn’t stop someone from doing it. I don’t agree with that. I think when people know there’s a penalty, they’ll take a step back and say, you know, the consequences are different. If you’re just getting a small fine,” White said.

As we previously reported, the spike in threats has led to a polling worker shortage, which Democratic state lawmakers hope the new laws will help address.

Many of the laws will take effect from November’s general election, when many will vote in person with Congress controlling the line.

Guns banned in polling stations

It is not just election workers whom the state legislators are trying to save. They also want to keep polling stations safe.

In Colorado, Democratic Governor Jared Polis signed a law in late March that bans open carrying of firearms within 100 feet of a polling place. Local election officials supporting the measure include Adams County clerk and recorder Josh Zigilbaum in the Denver suburbs. He told Kelly that he now wears a bulletproof vest to work for safety reasons.

“I never thought it would be like this. I thought my days wearing body armor were over when I left the Marine Corps. The weirdest thing and the hardest thing is not knowing that I was with my family at night.” Whether or not I’ll come home to K. But when I hug and kiss my kids and they ask why I’m wearing it,” Ziegelbaum said.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Michigan. According to the National Convention of State Legislatures, at least 11 other states, including Arizona and Florida, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, already ban firearms and other weapons at polling places.

you should read

  • A look at how election deniers promoting lies about the 2020 election have created a toxic political environment for local government in Green Bay, Wisconsin, from Politico.
  • This excerpt in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that highlights how redistribution and new voting laws have affected preparations for the upcoming primary elections in a large Atlanta-area county.
  • This CNN special story about Donald Trump Jr., then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows calling out ideas to reverse the 2020 election.
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