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Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper are among those supporting legislation that would address the rising threats against election workers.

"The Election Worker Protection Act would provide states with the resources to recruit and train election workers and ensure their safety, while also instituting federal safeguards to shield election workers from intimidation and threats," Bennet and Hickenlooper said in a release.

El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman confirms threats have been received by his staff, and he welcomes the legislation, though he would like to see a streamlining of placing the funds into the hands of election departments without a lot of bureaucratic red tape.

Bennet and Hicklenlooper said the bill includes provisions developed with input from state and local election officials, including Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

“Election workers deserve our respect for everything they do for our democracy. But in the past two years, they’ve faced an unprecedented rise in threats,” Bennet said in the release. “This legislation expands resources for states to protect election workers, and, for the first time, makes efforts to threaten or intimidate election workers a federal crime.”

Hickenlooper said, “Election workers upheld our democracy, despite intimidation and threats. They are often all that stands between free elections and attempts to subvert them. They must be protected.”

The Election Worker Protection Act has received the support of a bipartisan group of current and former election officials, including former Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, who testified before the Rules Committee last year about the threats he and his family received, the release said.

According to the release, the Act would:

  • Establish grants to states and certain local government for poll worker recruitment, training, and retention, as well as grants for election worker safety;
  • Direct the Department of Justice to provide training resources regarding the identification and investigation of threats to election workers;
  • Provide grants to states to support programs protecting election workers’ personally identifiable information;
  • Establish threatening, intimidating, or coercing election workers as a federal crime;
  • Expand the prohibition on voter intimidation in current law to apply to the counting of ballots, canvassing, and certification of elections;
  • Extend the federal prohibition on doxxing to include election workers; and
  • Protect the authority of election officials to remove poll observers who are interfering with or attempting to disrupt the administration of an election.

Boerman says threats and harassment of his staff and volunteer election judges ebbs and flows. Most recently, in July, when his department was in the midst of a recount sought by losing Republican candidates in the June 28 primary, people tapped and pounded on windows of the clerk's office and called election judges by name when they used the restroom, making some judges feel uneasy and wonder how they knew their names.

Broerman also says the harassment is meted out against Republican election judges more severely than others, based on his conversations with other clerks in the state.

Most are vague threats, he says, such as notes that say, "There will be blood on your hands. You better watch out."

"We've had phone calls and threats over the last two years," he says. That led him to install two-way cameras in the election area and intercoms "so we can screen who's coming in and out." He also added an electronic latch on the door controlling those coming in and going out. "It's something we had to do for the safety of our staff and our citizens."

Regarding the Election Worker Protection Act, Broerman says many provisions are "very good things," but "The key think is how any funds may be rolled out. It could be very bureaucratic. There needs to be a simple and easy way, especially for small counties. There needs to be some way streamline it so all counties can access money directly."

The legislation is cosponsored by 17 Democratic senators and two independent senators.

The release said the Act has won endorsement from Protect Democracy, End Citizens United & Let America Vote Action Fund, Democracy21, Issue One, Voices for Progress, Transparency International U.S., NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, and 20/20 Vision DC.

Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.