East Bay Times: California Senators Padilla, Feinstein advocate for federal protections for elections workers

By Kaitlyn Schallhorn

With less than two months before the midterms, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are pushing legislation to protect election workers.

California Sens. Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein are co-sponsors of the bill that would establish grants for states and local governments for the recruitment, retention, training and safety measures for poll workers; cover election workers under federal prohibitions on doxxing; and safeguard election officials’ ability to remove poll observers who attempt to interfere with an election.

The bill would also make coercing or threatening an election worker a federal crime, among other things, according to Padilla’s office.

“As California’s former secretary of state, I know that election workers are the backbone of our democratic elections,” said Padilla, a Democrat who assumed office in January 2021. “But increasingly, they are facing threats rooted in misinformation and ‘the Big Lie,’ simply for doing the critical work of administering our elections.”

“The Big Lie,” as Padilla referenced, refers to the oft-repeated but false claim by former President Donald Trump and his supporters that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

Multiple efforts are being made to ensure the safety of election workers in Southern California, particularly in the wake of the 2020 election.

In a recent interview with the Southern California News Group, Orange County Registrar Bob Page said his office is working on extra training for those who work with voters. And a bill from Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, allowing election workers’ home addresses to be kept private, made it through the state legislature and is sitting on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

One in six election workers said they have received threats and more than 75% said the federal government should be doing more to safeguard them, the Brennan Center, a nonprofit and public policy institute, found in a March survey.

Introduced just last week, the bill is led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat.

“Election workers are facing a barrage of threats from those seeking to undermine our democracy,” Klobuchar said. “We need to respond to these threats head-on and make sure that election workers are able to do their jobs. This legislation would ensure that state officials and law enforcement have the tools and resources they need to protect those on the frontlines defending our democracy.”

In a recent letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 15 secretaries of state implored the legislative leaders to push for greater federal protections for election workers, pointing to death threats and the publicization of home addresses.

“Election workers are essential to the administration of our elections, and each election we rely on citizens from across our states to lend a hand and help ensure the free exercise of the right to vote,” the Democratic coalition said. “The safety and security of these election workers is critical to the health of our democracy.”

California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber was not among the signatories to the letter. Her office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

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