The National Association of Counties (NACo) approved a resolution urging the US Congress to impose appropriate penalties for threats and intimidation against public servants charged with ensuring fair, open, and transparent elections.
The resolution, approved by the NACo Board of Directors during this week’s Annual Conference in Travis County, Texas, calls upon Congress to enact legislation that will impose appropriate penalties for offenses including but not limited to harassing or intimidating election officials in the performance of their duty, threatening or causing harm to election officials or their families, attempting to pressure election officials or their family members to violate state law or the Constitution and disseminating by any means the personal information of election officials or their family members.
Counties administer and fund elections at the local level, overseeing polling places and coordinating poll workers every two years. Maryland law protects local elected officials who perform their duties – making it a crime for residents to threaten, intimidate, or otherwise impede their public responsibilities.
However, unlike some states, Maryland does not extend these protections to other non-elected officials who perform administrative or oversight roles but may suffer the same potentially dangerous feedback from angry residents.
According to a recent Brennan Center for Justice poll, election officials are under attack and leaving the field. Nearly one in three election officials have been harassed, abused, or threatened because of their job. And election officials worry about their colleagues, with 45 percent of respondents expressing concern for the safety of other election officials and workers in future elections.
A 2022 MACo Legislative Initiative sought to extend reasonable and necessary protections for local officials (including election officials and workers) against threats and intimidation. In the 2023 session, MACo supported legislation to provide essential and timely policy changes extending criminal penalties for doxing election officials and their families. Unfortunately, neither bill passed the Maryland General Assembly.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.