Legislation continues Klobuchar and Durbin’s longstanding efforts to protect the safety of election workers
April 29, 2023 - WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections, and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have reintroduced comprehensive legislation to address threats to election workers.
The Election Worker Protection Act would provide states with the resources to recruit and train election workers and ensure these workers’ safety, while also instituting federal safeguards to shield election workers from intimidation and threats. The bill includes provisions that were developed with input from election officials, as well as provisions from the Freedom to Vote Act, voting rights legislation led by Klobuchar and supported by all Democratic Senators.
“Election workers have faced serious threats, intimidation, and even physical harm. We need to respond to make sure that they are able to do their jobs safely,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation would provide state officials and law enforcement with the resources and tools they need to protect those on the frontlines defending our democracy while also helping to ensure we have enough election workers for future elections.”
“Citizens supporting our nation’s democracy by serving as election workers should not receive threats for doing their job,” said Durbin. “Trump’s Big Lie not only encouraged these violent threats and the destruction of faith in our elections, it facilitated them. We cannot allow fear and intimidation to keep voters away from the ballot box. The Election Worker Protection Act is a common sense way to protect the safety of the public servants who administer our elections.”
A group of 15 Secretaries of State, led by Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, joined a letter supporting the Election Worker Protection Act and calling on Congress to take action to protect election workers.
“As Secretaries of State and Chief Election Officials, we are aware of the ongoing and unprecedented threats directed at election workers across the country, and have seen their terrible impact on our colleagues. These threats are often violent and have been aimed at us, and at individuals simply going about their jobs. As a result of this rise in threats and other challenges, we have seen shortages of election workers in our states and across the country,” wrote the Secretaries. “The Election Worker Protection Act makes clear that these attacks on election workers will not be tolerated, by making it a federal crime to threaten, interfere with, or dox an election worker.”
In addition to Klobuchar and Durbin, the Election Worker Protection Act is cosponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The Election Worker Protection Act would:
- Establish grants to states and certain local governments for poll worker recruitment, training, and retention, as well as grants for election worker safety;
- Direct the Department of Justice to provide training resources regarding the identification and investigation of threats to election workers;
- Provide grants to states to support programs protecting election workers’ personally identifiable information;
- Establish threatening, intimidating, or coercing election workers as a federal crime;
- Expand the prohibition on voter intimidation in current law to apply to the counting of ballots, canvassing, and certification of elections;
- Extend the federal prohibition on doxxing to include election workers; and
- Protect the authority of election officials to remove poll observers who are interfering with or attempting to disrupt the administration of an election.
The legislation is endorsed by the National Association of Counties, Protect Democracy, End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund, American Federation of Teachers, Democracy21, Issue One, Voices for Progress, Transparency International U.S., NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Pax Christi USA, and 20/20 Vision DC.
“As the foundation of our republic, free and fair elections should be vigilantly protected, as should those who administer them. Election administrators are fiercely impartial. We work diligently to uphold the integrity of our nation’s electoral process and ensure citizens can exercise their right to vote. Threats, harassment, and violence towards election workers have no place and no merit,” said Ricky Hatch, Republican County Clerk, Weber County, Utah.
“Our dedicated election workers have faced unacceptable levels of intimidation, threats, and harassment while carrying out their vital duties to ensure the integrity of our elections. This legislation is a crucial step in safeguarding the rights and safety of our election workers, who deserve to perform their duties without fear of interference or harm. We urge all of Congress to join us in supporting this critical legislation to protect those who work tirelessly to protect our democracy,” said Isaac Cramer, Executive Director for Charleston County, South Carolina Board of Elections.
“It is very encouraging to see Congress considering legislation that seeks to protect election workers. Whether it be threats of physical harm, verbal abuse or spurious attacks, election administrators and precinct workers are suffering from an onslaught of mistreatment that threatens the proper discharge of functions that are vital to the perpetuation of our democratic institutions,” said Grant Veeder, Democratic County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections, Black Hawk County, Iowa.
“Local election officials are watching our colleagues leave the field of election administration at alarming rates due to escalated threats and harassment. I am encouraged that Congress is taking proactive steps to support and protect poll workers, election staff, and voters as we prepare for the 2024 election cycle,” said Brianna Lennon, Democratic County Clerk, Boone County, Missouri.
As Chairwoman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee with oversight over federal elections, Klobuchar has long led championed efforts to protect the safety of election workers.
Last month Klobuchar held a Rules Committee hearing on election administration, including the impact of increasing threats directed at election officials on the ability of states and local governments to administer future elections.
In 2021, Klobuchar introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, landmark legislation to strengthen our democracy, which included resources to recruit and train election workers as well as provisions to prevent the intimidation and harassment of election workers. All Senate Democrats cosponsored this legislation and voted to advance the bill in January 2022.
In June 2022, she and Durbin led 20 of their colleagues in urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to notify state and local law enforcement of rising threats against election workers. Durbin also held a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing in August 2022, that included testimony from officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), on threats to election workers and the first formal update to Congress since DOJ’s announcement one year ago that it was launching a task force to address the rise in threats against election officials.
Klobuchar and former Senate Rules Committee Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) led a successful effort to call on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to expand the use of federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding to protect election workers and officials against threats.
In October 2021, Klobuchar held a Rules Committee hearing on increasing threats directed at election officials and the ability of states and local governments to retain election officials and recruit workers to administer future elections.
In June 2021, Klobuchar and Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) led bicameral legislation to prevent local election officials from being removed without cause while protecting the safety and security of election workers and volunteers. U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes (D-MD), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Nikema Williams (D-GA), and Colin Allred (D-TX) introduced companion legislation in the House.
Source: Senator Amy Klobuchar