At least three states are weighing legislation to create severe punishments for those harassing election officials during their legislative sessions.
CNN.com wrote that Maine, Washington and Vermont have introduced bills in an effort to stop the ongoing violence since the 2020 election. Threats of violence persist even a year after President Donald Trump lost the election, but he and his followers are still irate. Meanwhile, other states are passing voter suppression laws that are making being a local official even worse, CBS News reported.
"In Maine, a bill slated for debate in a legislative committee later this week would increase the penalty for threatening an election official with violence," said CNN. "In Vermont, a measure introduced this month aims to make it easier to prosecute culprits. And in Washington, the state Senate has approved a bill that would make harassing election workers a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison."
In Wisconsin, Claire Woodall-Vogg, the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, has been dealing with a lot.
"I have been told that I deserve to be hung in a public square," she said. "I received a letter to my home calling me a traitorous c*nt."
"We're going to try you and we're going to f*cking convict your piece-of-s*it a*s and we're going to hang you," said one voicemail she got. An email threatened, "no need to look over your shoulder. Not yet, at least."
The GOP-led legislature in Wisconsin has responded to the violence by attempting to pass laws that make it more difficult for the elderly and disabled to vote. Fourteen bills in total were proposed in 2021 and all were stopped. Arizona, Texas and Georgia haven't been as lucky.
However, Wisconsin also failed to do anything to make the election laws better, she said. So, absentee ballot results will likely come in the middle of the night again. She said she's worried about her safety on that night in particular.
A survey last year revealed that 1 in 3 local election officials has felt unsafe due to their jobs, the Brennan Center for Justice calculated.
Larry Norden, the Brennan Center's senior director of the elections and government program, explained that stronger laws could certainly help but the biggest problem is that law enforcement is refusing to prosecute the harassers.
"Under a lot of state laws," he said, "threatening to kill somebody or to commit violence where the person has a reasonable fear that it will be carried out, that's prosecutable."
It's the reason that the Justice Department announced that they encourage local FBI offices to get involved when threats are made against local officials.
“The FBI will not tolerate threats against any federal, state or local election worker participating in the common goals of safeguarding our electoral process and the rights of voters,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate. “From election administrators to volunteers to vendors and contractors, threats against any one individual is a threat against us all. The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold our Constitution, and protecting our democratic process is paramount. We take this responsibility seriously and will investigate any and all federal violations to the fullest.”
Thus far only one man has been arrested for threats. Chad Christopher Stark, of Texas, created a Craigslist ad calling on people to use their "Second Amendment Rights" on Georgia election officials.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Trump supporters may have attacked the U.S. Capitol, but in Washington state they also breached the governor's mansion security gate going after Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA). It's one of many reasons lawmakers there took steps to protect election officials and volunteers.
While the Maine and Washington bills will make threats a felony, in Vermont they're establishing it as a crime to threaten anyone or a group of people with violence. It comes after law enforcement declined to charge a man who threatened Secretary of State Jim Condos and others. The law enforcement called the threats protected speech.
"The new proposal also would eliminate the burden on prosecutors to demonstrate that an offender has the ability to carry out the threat," CNN noted.
Luckily for the attackers, they wouldn't lose their voting rights in any of the three states if they're convicted and jailed.
Well, that got stupid fast.
The legislative session is only two weeks old and the reliably witless Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Somewhere Up Trump’s Rump) is moving a bill to fine professional sports teams if they don’t play the national anthem.
Wait, you say, aren’t the Heat and the Magic, the Bucs and the Jaguars, the Rays and the Marlins and the rest of the millionaire menagerie already playing the national anthem?
Sure! But why would you expect sensible ideas from Florida’s ruling idiocracy? Gruters is the guy who pushed legislation in 2019 to ban “sanctuary” cities in Florida, even though there were no “sanctuary” cities in Florida, and is co-sponsoring an urgent measure to replace the mockingbird as Florida’s state bird.
If you’re wondering why we must have the national anthem in the first place — I mean, these are sports teams, not soldiers going to war — the answer is that here in Florida, the Hong Kong of North America, patriotism isn’t optional.
In other pressing legislative news, elected representatives are debating whether strawberry shortcake should become the state dessert.
Your tax dollars at work, people.
Of course, there’s a sound argument to be made that it’s better they occupy themselves with this sort of nonsense than carry on enacting our thug governor’s agenda.
A bill outlawing abortion after 15 weeks (identical to the one from Mississippi now awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision) looks likely to sail through on a wave of misogyny.
The bill makes no exception for rape or incest, but, like, so what? Chair of the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Care and founder of “Latinas For Trump” Ileana Garcia says that doesn’t matter because only “perhaps one percent” of pregnant rape victims seek an abortion.
So that’s all right, then. The state of Florida will not interfere with a rapist’s freedom to impregnate his victim.
Nor will your elected representatives give up their freedom to decide what’s best for you — no matter what you think you want.
Rep. Mike Beltran, (R-Harvard Law School — he really likes people to know that about him) thinks that citizens really shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about amending the Florida Constitution.
His HJR 1127 would confine citizen ballot initiatives to “matters relating to procedural subjects or to the structure of the government.”
Over the past two decades, Floridians have been fed up to the back teeth with the Legislature’s refusal to deal with issues that matter to them — what the aptly-named Rep. Spencer Roach of North Fort Myers called “frivolous things” — small stuff such as protecting the state’s environment, restoring ex-felons’ right to vote, raising the minimum wage, and allowing the use of medical marijuana.
Citizens launched petitions, collected signatures, got their proposals on the ballot, and voted them in.
Republicans claim these citizen initiatives are the sinister work of “special interests” and “out-of-state money.”
But political abstractions don’t vote: The people of Florida do.
Beltran says the Constitution is a “revered document.”
By whom is it revered? Not the Florida Legislature.
In 2002, the people of Florida demanded smaller classes through a ballot initiative. The Legislature’s been ignoring this constitutional imperative for 20 years.
In 2014, 75 percent voted for the amendment to spend some of our documentary stamp revenue on buying conservation lands.
Our Republican masters have fought that in court for eight years.
They think only they should have the power to amend the Constitution. You, insignificant little citizen-loser, should sit down and shut up.
Unless you want to destroy public education in Florida. Then by all means show up to a school board meeting, scream, and demand that your children be protected from the unhappier chapters of American history.
The Florida Senate returned from the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and honored the great civil rights leader by taking up a bill that tries to shield children from certain unpleasant facts.
Like how slavery was central to creating American wealth, white settlers stole Native American land and Jim Crow robbed generations of African Americans of economic opportunity.
God forbid kids should discover that those injustices still haunt our police, our courts, our universities and our financial institutions.
It might hurt a kid’s (a white kid’s) feelings.
America is the greatest country in the universe and everything is fine now.
Last summer, some woman accused a Dunedin high school teacher of seducing young people into pinkoism: “Call it CRT or whatever you want,” she barked. “It’s still Marxist indoctrination of our youth.”
Seems she objected to her kid reading distinguished historian Nell Irvin Painter’s “Creating Black Americans: African American History and its Meanings, 1619 to the Present.”
Pretty sure that woman wouldn’t know Nell Irvin Painter’s work from a barrel of dead squirrels.
Also pretty sure she just saw “1619″ in the title and her head exploded.
Teacher Brandt Robinson was not, in fact, trying to foment revolution.
As he says to his students, “My job is not to teach you what to think. It’s to help you be a better thinker,” part of “preparing citizens to be functional wonderful citizens in a democracy.”
That’s where he went wrong. The rulers of Florida don’t really like democracy.
And the governor and Legislature sure as hell don’t want you to go around thinking.
Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: email@example.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.
America is facing four distinct threats to democracy as the country prepares for the 2022 midterm elections, according to a new analysis in Vox.
"Leading Democrats, many academics, liberal commentators, and left-leaning activists agree: American democracy is in grave peril. It’s besieged on all sides, the threats culminating so far in Donald Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election from Joe Biden. More tumult likely lies ahead," Andrew Prokop wrote. "Too often, though, all this tends to be conflated and treated as similarly urgent in what has become a thinkpiece-industrial complex about democracy’s peril, and by a liberal establishment mostly concerned with offering reasons to vote for Democrats rather than Republicans. These threats may well have a common root, but they are distinct problems that would have separate solutions."
Prokop wrote that the "most dangerous scenario" may be efforts at direct election theft like Trump's "big lie" inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"In this line of thinking, the many other issues liberals care about — voter suppression laws, gerrymandering, the Senate’s rural skew, Trump’s election in the first place — pale in importance when compared to the attempted theft of 2020. Institutional biases or voter suppression might affect election outcomes on the margin. But election theft is about throwing out the results entirely," he explained.
One week after Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) sided with Republicans to preserve the filibuster, minority rule is the second threat Prokop identified.
"Yet many Democrats, activists, and academics aren’t just worried about elections being outright stolen. They’re also concerned that Republicans could consistently win elections while lacking a majority of overall votes nationwide," he wrote. "This, they argue, is an affront to the core democratic principle that a majority should prevail, and to the idea that some people’s votes shouldn’t be worth more than others."
Voter suppression was identified as the third threat to democracy.
"This effort accelerated in 2021 with a set of new laws in GOP-controlled states. Some toughened voter ID requirements, some are reduced the time in which mail ballots can be requested, some limited drop boxes, some made it easier to 'purge' voter rolls. Republicans claim they’re simply rolling back pandemic expansions or trying to combat possible fraud, but occasionally a Republican admits these measures are aimed at helping their party win," he wrote. "Biden and others have compared these laws to the old Jim Crow laws of the South."
Irresponsibility by Republicans in the era of Trump was the fourth threat to democracy.
"Finally, some liberals would define the threat to democracy in even more worrying terms. It wouldn’t just be a stolen election, or a Republican win without a majority of votes — any Republican victory at all is a threat, because of what the GOP might use its powers to do next time around," he wrote. "Trump’s actions, and the willingness of so much of the GOP to excuse or accommodate them, indeed go a long way toward making the case that the GOP may well not respect future election results if it’s in power."
Read the full analysis.