States are weighing laws to make threats against election officials serious crimes
Australian voters check in and cast their ballots in a September 2019 federal election. Australian Electoral Commission

At least three states are weighing legislation to create severe punishments for those harassing election officials during their legislative sessions. 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.

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"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.

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