Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), joined by his colleagues U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, as well as Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA), introduced new legislation that will ensure the integrity of local elections while also protecting the safety and security of election workers and volunteers, following the spate of state-level voter suppression attacks sweeping the nation that would make it harder for eligible voters to cast a ballot and ensure it is counted. The Preventing Election Subversion Act of 2021 will institute new federal safeguards that will help keep the foundations of our democracy strong by insulating state election administration from partisan pressure. U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes (D, MD-03), Nikema Williams (D, GA-05), and Colin Allred (D, TX-32) are introducing companion legislation in the House.
Since January, state legislators have introduced over 210 bills in 41 states that grant more power to state legislatures nationwide to politicize, criminalize, or interfere with elections. These dangerous efforts place local elections officials at risk of partisan subversion, interference, or control. In fourteen states, including Georgia, these bills have been signed into law; Georgia’s SB 202 allows partisan officials in the state legislature wide latitude to remove local election officials. This is specifically concerning given that since the November 2020 elections, many of these officials have been pressured to overturn the election results, and have received death threats in response to their work upholding the integrity of our elections.
“The dangers of the voter suppression efforts we’re seeing in Georgia and across the nation are not theoretical, and we can’t allow power-hungry state actors to squeeze the people out of their own democracy by overruling the decisions of local election officials,” said Senator Reverend Warnock. “This legislation is critical to ensuring the federal government has the tools to make sure every eligible voter’s voice is heard and their ballot is counted to help decide the direction of our country.”
“The right to vote is fundamental to all of our rights, but today we are seeing efforts to roll back voting rights across the country,” said Senator Klobuchar. “We need to respond to these threats to our democracy head on which is why this legislation to protect election workers and prohibit voter intimidation tactics is so vital. This bill builds on several provisions from the For the People Act to fight back against attempts to undermine election workers and make it harder to vote. In the face of these unprecedented attacks, we must move quickly to ensure our democracy works for every American.”
“Around the world we see sham elections controlled by a ruling party to give a veneer of democracy while preventing the people from actually deciding who holds power. And in 2021, this threat has arrived on our shores,” said Senator Merkley. “For the first time in my memory, one party is trying to dismantle the safeguards that give us independent, free elections so they can rig—or throw out—the results they don’t like. This bill is an essential line of defense to preserve government of, by, and for the People.”
“American elections – and the public servants who oversee them – should be free from partisan interference, threats of violence, and acts of intimidation. Unfortunately, state legislatures in states across the country have resorted to targeting local election officials in their latest effort to delegitimize and influence voting outcomes for political gain and we’ve seen election workers suffer from unrelenting abuse and harassment,” said Senator Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to protect free and fair elections, the cornerstone of our democracy.”
“Senator Reverend Warnock and I are focused on protecting every American’s voting rights. This legislation will ensure nonpartisan election officials can carry out free and fair elections without partisan interference and help safeguard the sacred right to vote,” said Senator Ossoff.
The Preventing Election Subversion Act of 2021 would:
- Limit arbitrary and unfounded removals of local election officials by requiring a “for cause” standard to be met before suspension and provide a federal cause of action to enforce this standard;
- Allow a local election official who has responsibility for federal elections and who has been subjected to removal proceedings by a state board of elections to remove that proceeding to federal district court for redress;
- Make it a federal crime for any person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, to intimidate, threaten, coerce, harass, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, coerce, or harass an election worker;
- Establish a minimum buffer zone to limit how close a poll observer may come within a voter or ballot at a polling location during an early vote period or on Election Day; and
- Require challenges to a voter’s eligibility to register to vote or to cast a ballot, other than from an election official, to be supported by personal knowledge with respect to each individual challenged.
View the Preventing Election Subversion Act of 2021 bill text HERE.
For more information on the Preventing Election Subversion Act of 2021, read the fact sheet HERE.