LANSING, Mich., Feb. 23, 2023 — State Reps. Kara Hope (D-Holt), Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing) and Stephanie A. Young (D-Detroit) introduced a bill package yesterday to enhance the safety of elections and election workers. Bills in the package would prohibit firearms from polling places, drop boxes, early voting locations, and counting boards and make the harassment and intimidation of election workers a felony. The House Elections Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the package from the bill sponsors on Tuesday.
“Those who harass election workers interfere with our democracy. They need to face the appropriate consequences,” Hope said. “These bills will help preserve our elections and protect those who work hard to make them happen.”
Election officials all over Michigan from both parties have received threats of violence since the 2020 election. In testimony before the U.S. House Administration Committee, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey stated that, since the November election, she and her staff have been threatened with violence, including being shot at and followed home. A 2021 report from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found that one in three election officials feels unsafe because of their job. The threatening atmosphere poll workers face has only further hindered efforts to fully staff elections.
“The atmosphere of threats and violence is unlike what we’ve seen prior to 2020,” said Tsernoglou, chair of the Michigan House Elections Committee. “We should be able to exercise our rights and freedoms without worrying about the threat of violence. Keeping guns away from polling places and counting boards is just common sense. This legislation will help ensure we all can vote, free from intimidation.”
Young’s bill enhances the safety of counting boards specifically, which have been the target of conspiracy theories aiming to undermine faith in American elections, often stoked by the losers of elections. Crowds attempted to disrupt the counting of votes in Detroit in 2020.
“Democrats take our responsibility to safeguard our elections seriously,” Young said. “It’s time to put an end to the harassment, conspiracy theories and lies about our electoral process that put our democratic institutions at risk. I’m proud to support this bill package to protect our voting rights.”