Remedies to better protect election workers

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The federal government is not doing enough to protect election workers from a growing barrage of threats and intimidation, according to a recent national poll of local election officials.

Nearly eight in 10 election officials said the federal government is either doing nothing to support them or not doing enough, according to the poll from the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit law and public policy institute at New York University Law School.

One in six election workers reported that they’d experienced job-related threats–and nearly 80% of those said the threats have increased in recent election cycles. Over 25% said they’re afraid of being assaulted on the job, and more than half are concerned about their co-workers’ safety.

Because of the increase in harassment from the public, many local election officials are worried about recruiting and keeping poll workers. Fully 30% of them said they knew of one or more election workers who’ve left their job, partly because of increased intimidation and safety concerns.

The U.S. Justice Department created a task force last year to fight threats against election workers. It “can provide after-the-fact criminal accountability,” said the Brennan Center, but “election workers also need proactive steps that will help keep them and their families safe.”

Even more concerning, election officials reported that half of the threats they experienced were in person. Federal law prohibits intimidating voters during federal elections, but Congress also needs to pass legislation to make it clear that it is a crime to intimidate election workers, the Brennan Center said.

The Brennan Center’s report offers additional solutions for Congressional legislation that’s needed to protect election workers:

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