A bill to protect election poll workers is now being considered by California lawmakers in light of a polarized political climate and a number of incidents of harassment.
The author of the bill, State Senator Josh Newman, said that “people who are frustrated with the conduct of the election or the outcome of elections, are starting to take it out on the people administering elections,” (D-Fullerton).
SB1131 was introduced by Newman, allowing election workers to conceal their residences from the general public.
Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and abuse of elderly or dependent adults, as well as reproductive health care workers, would be given additional protections under the state’s “Safe at Home” program, which already exists.
In Nevada County, “elections staff and people forced themselves into offices when they were closed to the public and a staff member was injured,” said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, which is co-sponsored by the bill.
The nonpartisan, non-profit organization’s goal is to make the electoral process more responsive to the wants and needs of the people who use it.
There has been a rise in threats of violence and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election, Alexander claims.
It wasn’t until 2020 that Alexander realized that protecting election officials is now part of election security.
The Brennan Center recently conducted a nationwide survey of election officials and discovered that 1 in 6 had received threats and that 1 in 3 knew of at least one employee who had left their job due to fear for their safety. This, according to Senator Newman, is making it difficult to hire and keep these vital employees.
According to Newman, “Good fences are good neighbors.” As a result, “maybe we’ll cause people to think a little more seriously about how they should participate in the election process.”
Similar legislation is being considered by a number of states. Legislators in Oregon recently passed a similar bill to safeguard the privacy of addresses. Last week, SB1131 passed out of the legislative committee.