U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Protect Election Workers after Reuters Investigation

September 13, 2021
In The News

Democratic Congress members called for tougher legislation to address death threats against U.S. election administrators following a Reuters report that exposed a lack of arrests in response to a wave of intimidation targeting the workers since November’s presidential election. In a report published on Wednesday, Reuters identified more than 100 threats of death or violence made to election workers and officials, part of an unprecedented campaign of intimidation inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. The response from U.S. law enforcement has so far produced only four known arrests and no convictions.“This is a real problem, and it needs attention,” said Representative John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat. “If they are under attack, our democracy is very much under attack.” In late June, Sarbanes was among a group of Democratic House members and senators who introduced the Preventing Election Subversion Act, which would make it a federal crime to intimidate, threaten, coerce, or harass an election worker. It would also seek to limit “arbitrary and unfounded removals of local election officials.” At about the same time, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a task force to investigate threats against election workers. About two weeks earlier, on June 11, Reuters published a report that revealed chilling threats made against Georgia election officials and their families, including Tricia Raffensperger, wife of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In late July, a House committee held a hearing on election threats. The second Reuters investigation into the topic, published this week, found large gaps in the protection that U.S. law enforcement provides election administrators. Local police agencies said they have struggled to identify suspects who make anonymous threats and to determine which threats rise to the level of crimes. Some election officials complained that police or federal investigators did not take the threats seriously and said they were confused about which agency, if any, was investigating. “This report shows how critical this bill is to protecting the independence and safety of our local election officials and to ensuring that elections are free and fair,” Sarbanes said.