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Washington Joins Indiana in Enacting Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Election Workers

More States Must Act to Show “Zero Tolerance” for Election Threats

Washington, D.C. – Responding to the documented increase in threats and harassment of election officials since the last presidential election, two states — Washington and Indiana — have enacted new legislation to protect election workers in 2024. A total of sixteen states have passed legislation to protect election officials since 2022, according to Public Citizen’s tracker of related state bills nationwide. The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced it was investigating dozens of threats to election workers across the country.

Washington’s recently passed HB-1241, signed today by Governor Jay Inslee (D), increases the penalty for harassment of an election official to a class C felony, and allows election officials who are harassed to apply for the address confidentiality program. The bill was passed after four county election offices received envelopes containing suspicious substances. Three of the envelopes tested positive for fentanyl.

Earlier this month, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R) signed bill SB-170, which makes it a felony to influence, obstruct, interfere or injure an election worker. In February, an Indiana man pleaded guilty for threatening an election worker in Michigan in connection with the 2020 election.

“Legislators in Washington and Indiana are making it clear that they will have a zero-tolerance policy for election threats in 2024 and beyond,” says Jalisa Giles, Secure Our Vote campaign coordinator with Public Citizen. “More states must join them to deter future threats and stand with election administrators in advance of the November elections.”

Several other bipartisan bills are moving through legislatures across the country.

“One thing we must do to prepare for elections in 2024 is address the disturbing threats to election officials, who are proudly proclaiming they are prepared to count votes fairly,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of Public Citizen’s democracy campaign. “The least we can do is put stronger protections in place and strengthen penalties for threats and harassment. These essential workers of our democracy deserve our support. Legislators nationwide must signal that such political violence won’t be tolerated in their communities.”