Tuesday, May 9, 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections, and U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) reintroduced legislation to expand protections against election interference during the ballot counting and certification processes.
Election administrators have often been the subject of threats and abusive behavior. While protections exist for voters, additional protections are needed for workers and volunteers responsible for counting and certifying ballots. Stronger measures are also needed to protect against efforts to undermine legitimate election results.
“Across the nation, we have seen our local election administrators and officials face a barrage of threats and abuse,” said Klobuchar. “We need to respond head on to protect those who are on the frontlines of our democracy. This legislation is key to fighting against attempts to undermine access to the ballot box and ensuring our democracy works for all Americans.”
“As Republican-led state legislatures continue to promote the Big Lie, we have a duty to protect election workers and administrators against the persistent attacks that undermine the secure and non-partisan administration of our elections,” said Padilla. “We must take action to protect our democracy and the integrity of the voting process from start to finish. Congress must provide increased protections for our election workers and the preservation of election records.”
“The ballot box is the beating heart of our democratic republic, and without strong elections we can’t protect our other rights and freedoms,” said Merkley. “Any attempt to block access or interfere with the work of our election officials is a threat to our democratic values. Free and fair elections cannot be a partisan issue, and Congress must act to protect our elections from being rigged by bad-faith actors who want to seize power against the will of the voters.”
“Election workers in Ohio and across the country dedicate their time to making our elections happen,” said Brown. “In the face of continued threats and attacks we must protect the safety of these dedicated workers and volunteers so they can continue helping Ohioans exercise their right to vote.”
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. Yet in the wake of Trump’s Big Lie, election workers have increasingly been the target of intimidation and physical threats,” said Smith. “This legislation would expand protections for election administrators and strengthen our voting infrastructure so that our elections run smoothly and effectively.”
“After years of attacks on the legitimacy of our elections and threats on election workers themselves, it is crucial that we take these commonsense steps to protect the sanctity of our elections and our democracy as a whole,” said Warner.
“Election workers and volunteers are important players in our Democratic process, ensuring every voter can cast their ballot and make their voice heard. With rising instances of intimidation and politically-motivated attacks it has never been more important to protect election administrators,” said Welch. “I’m proud to join my friend Senator Klobuchar in introducing the Protecting Election Administration from Interference Act.”
“Election workers are on the frontlines defending our democracy, and deserve to be protected while performing their jobs,” said Whitehouse. “Our Protecting Election Administration from Interference Act expands prohibitions on threatening or intimidating election administrators and safeguards election records.”
This legislation is led in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Colin Allred (D-TX), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). The legislation is endorsed by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Protect Democracy, Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund, Transparency International U.S., American Federation of Teachers, Pax Christi USA, and Sojourners.
The Protecting Election Administration from Interference Act would:
- Expand protections for election administrators by extending existing prohibitions on intimidating or threatening voters to include election officials engaged in the counting of ballots, canvassing, and certifying election results. It is currently a federal crime to interfere with the voting process, and this would make clear that the criminal penalty extends to the counting and certifying process as well.
- Strengthen protections for Federal election records and election infrastructure to stop election officials or others from endangering the preservation and security of cast ballots.
- Provide judicial review for election records by allowing the Justice Department and candidates to bring lawsuits to ensure compliance with election record requirements.
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.
Recently, Klobuchar reintroduced the Election Worker Protection Act, comprehensive legislation to address threats to election workers, with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 23 of their colleagues.
In March 2023, 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 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 the 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.