Lawmakers in a handful of states are seeking greater protections for election officials amid growing concerns for their safety after they were targeted by threats of violence following the 2020 presidential election.
Widespread threats against those who oversee elections, from secretaries of state to county clerks and even poll workers, soared after former President Donald Trump and his allies spread false claims about the outcome of the presidential election.
The threats and harassment are not limited to prominent figures but also have been directed at lower-level staff at county election offices. Much of the legislation would create or boost penalties for threats against election workers.
In Vermont, as Reuters reports, lawmakers have proposed multiple bills that could make it easier to prosecute those who make threats towards election officials. In Maine, lawmakers have proposed legislation that would make penalties for such threats harsher. In Washington, lawmakers in that state voted to make threats of this kind towards election workers a felony.
Reuters documented more than 850 "threats and hostile messages" directed towards U.S. election officials and workers, the outlet reported. More than 100 of those incidents met the federal requirement for criminal prosecution.
Vermont's Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos told the Associated Press, “Nationally, we are seeing longtime experienced election leaders and their staffs leaving their positions for other work because they’ve had it, this is it, this has crossed the line.”