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States pass new laws to protect election workers amid ongoing threats

Sep 13, 2022, 2:42 PM
Lawmakers in California approved legislation that aims to shield election officials from threats an...
Lawmakers in California approved legislation that aims to shield election officials from threats and harassment -- becoming the latest state to confront the wave of abuse against election workers that began in the aftermath of the 2020 election. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
(Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Lawmakers in California recently approved legislation that aims to shield election officials from threats and harassment — becoming the latest state to attempt to confront the wave of abuse against election workers that began in the aftermath of the 2020 election and continues today.

The new legislation would give election workers the option to have their addresses and other personal information redacted from government records. In addition, it amends a longstanding provision of California law that required the public posting of full names of precinct board members. Under the measure, only the party affiliations of those precinct officials must be publicly available. It awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat.

“It will make someone feel safer if they know, that ‘Ok, it won’t be as easy to figure out where I live,’ ” said Gowri Ramachandran, a senior counsel at the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, which advocated for the legislation.

Election officials from around the country — ranging from secretaries of state to temporary poll workers — have testified publicly about how scary life has become for them.

In one of the most heart-rending examples this year, former Georgia election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss tearfully described to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection how her life was turned “upside down” by the lie that she had committed voter fraud.

And during a roundtable last month sponsored by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said one staffer in his office suffered symptoms of PTSD and took a leave of absence to receive counseling after the office was targeted with repeated death threats.

New laws

Here’s a look at new laws in other states that aim to better protect election officials:

Colorado: A law enacted this year, the Election Official Protection Act, adds new criminal penalties for threatening or intimidating election officials.

It also allows election workers to request that their personal information be shielded from public records requests and bars someone from “doxing” or posting on the Internet the personal information of election officials or their immediate family members.

Maine: A law enacted in April added threatening an election official to the state’s criminal code. It also requires the Maine secretary of state to submit an annual report to a legislative committee on threats or harassment of public officials.

Oregon: The state now makes it a crime to harass an election worker and allows the worker’s address to be shielded from public view.

Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed a new law in May that makes it easier to prosecute people who threaten election workers or other public officials.

Mark Zuckerberg didn’t break federal law in helping fund 2020 elections, feds say

The three Republicans and the three Democrats on the Federal Election Commission rarely agree on anything, but they recently reached bipartisan accord on one contentious topic: Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, did not violate federal campaign-finance law when they donated some $400 million to a pair of nonprofits to help local officials carry out 2020 elections in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Documents recently made public show the commissioners unanimously rejected complaints that the donations violated federal law, including charges that they amounted to excess campaign contributions.

Republican state lawmakers have argued the spending unfairly benefited Democratic turnout. The people who administered the grants have denied any partisan bias, saying any jurisdiction that applied for a grant received one.

As we wrote about last year, at least 11 states now have outlawed or limited private funding for elections following the 2020 influx of donations.

Voting and abortion rights on the ballot in Michigan

The state’s elections board reversed course last week and voted unanimously to put voting and abortion rights measures on November’s ballot. The action by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers came in response to orders by the state Supreme Court, directing the panel to put the two constitutional amendments up for a statewide vote. As we wrote in last week’s newsletter, the board had deadlocked along partisan lines, potentially dooming the measures before the high court intervened.

The election-related initiative proposes at least nine days of early voting and would require prepaid postage for absentee ballot applications and ballot return envelopes among other measures aimed at making it easier to vote.

Tuesday’s primary elections

It’s primary election day in New HampshireRhode Island and Delaware.

As primary season comes to an end on Tuesday, most eyes will be on New Hampshire as voters will decide which Republican who will take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in November. In the state’s 1st Congressional District, there is a GOP primary where the nominee will challenge Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in a key House race this fall.

In addition to both parties selecting a nominee for governor in Rhode Island, the race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin in the state’s 2nd Congressional District is on the ballot.

While Delaware will not hold any primaries for Congress or governor, the state will hold local and some lower-profile statewide primaries.

Read more on how to follow Tuesday’s primary elections here.

You need to read

CNN’s Shania Shelton contributed to this edition.


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States pass new laws to protect election workers amid ongoing threats