Three NC Senate Democrats filed a bill this week meant to protect election workers from threats and intimidation of the kind they have experienced since Donald Trump and his supporters began their attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Senate Bill 916 would make intimidating or threatening elections workers with the goal of interfering with their official duties a crime punishable with up to five years in prison, a $100,000 fine, or both. Precinct officials would believe they are in danger would be able to have their addresses, phone numbers, and other information shielded from public records disclosure. The bill would also prevent the kind of partisan examination of ballots conducted in Arizona after the 2020 election.
“We must do everything we can to make sure that the ballot box is not won through voter intimidation, poll worker intimidation, and election official intimidation,” Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat, said at a news conference Tuesday.
The North Carolina bill contains elements similar to legislation proposed in other states. Stateline reported in March that legislation protecting elections workers had been filed in 10 states. A similar bill passed in Oregon this year with only one dissenting vote, Stateline reported.
The North Carolina bill has no Republican sponsors and has little to no change of becoming law, but serves to underscore the potential threat posed by purveyors of false claims of election fraud even in states that Trump won.
Republicans around the county have fomented lies and promoted conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, and elections officials nationwide have been threatened.
A national Brennan Center survey in March found that nearly two in three elections officials believe that false information is making their jobs more dangerous.
In North Carolina, the head of the Surry County Republican Party threatened a local election official’s job if she did not allow access to the county’s vote tabulators, Reuters reported in April. He was seeking evidence to support claims the 2020 election was stolen.
Last year, far-right Republicans in the NC House announced they would open voting machines in heavily Democratic Durham County for inspection, NC Policy Watch reported. The talk came to nothing after elections officials said unauthorized people were not allowed to open or take apart certified voting equipment.
“We see right through the partisan tactics to push the Big Lie,” said Sen. Natalie Murdock, a Durham Democrat.
The North Carolina bill was announced on the same day that the U.S. House committee on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol heard from elected officials and poll workers about how Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen resulted in threats against them and their families.