MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP)
Lawmakers in several states are seeking greater protections for election officials amid growing concerns about their safety after they were targeted by violent threats force after the 2020 presidential election.
Widespread threats against election custodians, from secretaries of state to district clerks and even poll workers, spiked after former President Donald Trump and his allies his false statements about the results of the presidential election. “All corrupt secretaries will be hanged when stolen elections are revealed” is just one example of a vulnerability from social media, emails and phone messages.
Even in Vermont, where results are not contested, election workers have faced threats. A caller to the secretary of state’s office said in 2020 that a firing squad would target “all of you cheaters (vulgar)” and that “a lot of people will be executed.”
To counter the threats, lawmakers have introduced bills so far in Vermont and several other states, including Illinois, Maine, New Mexico and Washington, all of which have party-led legislatures Democratic control. Much of the law would create or enhance criminal liability for threats and in Illinois for assaults on election workers.
There could be more legislation, as election officials warn that ongoing attacks endanger democracy and many election workers have quit or are considering doing so because of abuses. that they have faced since the 2020 election.
“Nationally, we are seeing seasoned election leaders and their staff leaving their positions to do something else because they had it – this is it, this has surpassed it. across the line,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat.
A survey of local election officials commissioned by the Brennan Center last April found that a third felt unsafe because of their jobs and one in six said they had been threatened. Trump has continued to push his false claim that the election was stolen from him, though no evidence of common type of fraud it is necessary to question the results, in which President Joe Biden won more than 7 million votes.
A bill under consideration in Vermont would expand the definition of threatening behavior to make it easier to prosecute them. Another measure will increase the punishment for threatening cadres, civil servants and election officials.
During a recent legislative committee hearing, Condos described threatening calls that frightened an employee so much that he was afraid to leave work and walk to his car. Finally, he took time to rest and seek counseling about symptoms related to post-traumatic stress.
“No election official should fear for their life because of their role in serving our nation’s democracy in this or any election,” Condos said.
A bill in Maine would make threats against election officials a Class C felony, following threats against two local secretaries in 2021.
“The message has to be loud and clear that this is a threat to our democracy,” said Democratic Representative Bruce White, the donor. “Intimidating our election workers is completely unacceptable.”
Immediately after the 2020 election, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, left her home for weeks as a safety precaution against security concerns. A Democratic-sponsored bill introduced last month expanded the intimidation charge to include acts against employees and agents of the secretary of state, county clerks and city clerks.
Proponents of the bill say extending protections to all election office employees is important because the threats are not limited to the most senior employees.
In Fulton County, Georgia, two elections office workers – one as a temporary employee – filed a lawsuit against a conservative website in December, alleging that the site spread false stories. about them. Their lawsuit says the false claims have resulted in “numerous threats, harassment and intimidation forcing them to change phone numbers, delete online accounts and fear for their physical safety.” their.”
In the weeks following the election, a top Georgia election official condemned the onslaught of threats and call Trump to rein in his supporters. At the time, Trump announced “massive voter fraud” in the state and people were driving in a caravan past the home of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, and sending sex threats to Raffensperger’s wife.
At the federal level, an election threats task force within the US Department of Justice reviewed more than 850 reports of threats to election officials, said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polit said. Two people have been charged federally with threatening election officials, including a Texas man accused of threatening to kill government officials in Georgia after the 2020 election. Polite said the department also has goods. Dozens of open investigations.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said harassers face prosecution.
“Unless everyone is held accountable, this kind of behavior will continue,” she said.
In October, one congressional committee heard from election officials about visual threats to their safety since the 2020 election.
The legislation was also introduced by a group of Democrats in the US Senate last year. It became part of a larger effort by Democrats to create federal standards for voting and reinstate a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
Wider try has since stalled, although there are signs that a bipartisan proposal may be underway to strengthen what election experts have described as weaknesses in the electoral process. of the country. The proposal could also include ways to increase protections for election workers facing threats and harassment.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said she continues to receive threats and is working on a legislative proposal to protect voters.
“I don’t think that registering to administer elections means you’re afraid that someone is going to hurt you,” Griswold said. “We cannot have an atmosphere where the electors are afraid of doing what is right, afraid of maintaining the will of the people, because they are afraid for their children and for their home and their lives. That is not a democracy.”
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https://www.winknews.com/2022/02/03/states-seek-to-protect-election-workers-amid-growing-threats/ States seek to protect election workers amid growing threats