LANSING, Mich., Aug. 17, 2021 — State Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) introduced House Bill 5282 today to create protections for election workers, making it illegal for them to be harassed, intimidated or prevented from performing their duties. If found guilty of violating the new law, individuals would face a misdemeanor charge with up to 90 days in jail, a fine of no more than $500, or both.
“Continuing to have open and fair elections means ensuring that the people who oversee and work those elections can do their work safely and free from intimidation,” Hope said. “Election workers make our democracy function. Since the 2020 election, poll workers have been the targets of severe harassment and intimidation. Michigan has the opportunity to lead the fight against these attacks on our election system and its workers, and I’m proud to introduce a bill that sends a strong message to those who would seek to undermine it.”
“In the last nine months, election workers — particularly those who have had the courage to speak the truth about the accuracy and integrity of the 2020 election — have been subject to an unprecedented number of threats,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “In spite of the danger they’ve been in and the concern they’ve felt for themselves, their colleagues and at times even their families, these brave men and women have continued doing what is right — working to ensure we have safe, secure and accessible elections. Legislation to protect them in that work, and outline consequences for those who attempt to undermine it, is critical, and I am grateful for Rep. Hope’s leadership on the issue.”
The proposed bill comes at a time of uncertainty and fear for many poll workers and election officials. In a recent report by the Brennan Center, they found that nearly 1 in 3 election officials felt unsafe and nearly 1 in 5 felt their lives endangered due to their job. Michigan currently does not have any specific election official protection laws.
“This is necessary legislation to protect the local and county clerks in our state who have spent the last year receiving threats to their safety simply for doing their job protecting democracy,” said Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum. “Our elections officials are the heroes who ensure that our democratic system of government is able to function safely and securely and they deserve to be protected from harassment and intimidation.”
“The Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks supports Rep. Hope’s proposed legislation to protect the state’s election workers, including the city and township clerks who we represent,” Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks President Mary Clark said. “Michigan’s local election officials deserve to feel safe and protected in the execution of their important work keeping Michigan’s elections free and fair.”
“This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s an issue of taking care of those who step up to do this vital but underpaid, temporary job,” Hope said. “Republican and Democratic election officials alike are being terrorized by conspiracy theorists insisting that the election was stolen despite all evidence to the contrary. This is dangerous to our democracy and to those who work hard to ensure we can exercise our right to vote.”