WASHINGTON – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley joined 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 Committee on the Judiciary, in introducing comprehensive legislation to address the rise in threats targeting 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 Senators Klobuchar and Merkley, and supported by all Democratic Senators.
“In the 2020 elections we saw a public threat to our democracy and our elections, but that isn’t all,” said Merkley. “Election workers themselves have faced death threats and feared for their lives, revealing the depth of the cracks in our democracy. It is incomprehensible that election workers from around the county have faced threats, harassment, doxing, and imminent harm. We must restore our elections and protect our election workers who are the public servants who make fair and free elections possible.”
“Election workers are facing a barrage of threats from those seeking to undermine our democracy,” said Klobuchar. “We need to respond to these threats head on and make sure that election workers are able to do their jobs. This legislation would ensure that state officials and law enforcement have the tools and resources they need to protect those on the frontlines defending our democracy.”
“In a recent survey, one in six election officials reported receiving threats because of their jobs on the frontlines of democracy,” said Durbin. “Donald Trump’s Big Lie not only encouraged these violent threats and the destruction of faith in our elections—it facilitated them. As we face this new, unfortunate reality, this bill is a common sense way to protect the safety of the public servants who administer our elections.”
A group of 15 Secretaries of State, including Oregon’s Secretary Fagan, joined a letter supporting the Election Worker Protection Act and calling on Congress to take action to protect election workers.
“Since the 2020 election, false information has eroded public trust in our elections and created an environment that poses real-world risks to elections workers in Oregon,” said Secretary Fagan. “We must do all we can to protect elections workers against physical harm, while also sending a clear message that attempting to interfere in elections will not change the results.”
In their letter the Secretaries wrote: “Additional action is needed at the federal level to ensure that all election workers have the necessary support and protection to do their jobs. The Election Worker Protection Act makes clear that these attacks on election workers will not be tolerated. We know what tools are needed to protect election workers, and we look forward to working with Congress to advance this legislation.”
The Election Worker Protection Act has received the support of a bipartisan group of current and former election officials, including former Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, who testified before the Rules Committee last year about the threats he and his family received.
“As a Philadelphia City Commissioner during the 2020 elections, my family and I received death threats simply for fulfilling my duty to certify legitimate election results,” said Schmidt. “I know that election workers across our country are facing similar harassment and intimidation on a daily basis from bad faith actors seeking to delegitimize our elections. That’s why it’s critical that Congress pass this commonsense legislation to protect election officials and safeguard our democratic processes.”
The Election Worker Protection Act would:
- Establish grants to states and certain local government 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.
In addition to Merkley, 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), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Mark Warner (D-VA). The legislation is endorsed by Protect Democracy, End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund, Democracy21, Issue One, Voices for Progress, Transparency International U.S., NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, and 20/20 Vision DC.