Madison to weigh tougher penalties for harassing election workers
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Madison city leaders want to increase the penalty for people convicted of threatening the people who carry out elections. Citing a poll of election workers about the threats they and their co-workers experienced, they proposed changing a city ordinance to increase the fine for disorderly conduct against an election worker to as much as $1,000 per offense.
The proposal is being introduced jointly by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, Alder Patrick Heck, Council President Keith Furman, and Vice President Jael Currie.
“By introducing these ordinance changes, the entire City of Madison, our police and our prosecutors are standing up and saying ‘enough.’ We are going to do everything we can to protect our clerks and poll workers from threats of violence and harassment,” Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said.
In a statement announcing the proposal, Rhodes-Conway and the other backers pointed to a poll of 600 election workers that was released in March by the Brennan Center for Justice. In it, researchers found that 1 in 6 local election officials said they have experienced threats because of their job and approximately three in ten of them knew someone who left their job because of harassment and threats.
Heck cautioned that Wisconsin’s current status as a battleground state means that election workers in the state are at “a constant and elevated risk of threats and intimidation.”
“Nonpartisan election officials are the backbone of our democracy and deserve to conduct their work free from harassment and threats,” he continued.
In arguing the need for reform, their joint statement pointed to a new law in the state of Oregon designed to protect election officials and said other local and state governments are considering similar measures. They also noted the creation of a Election Threats Task Force by the U.S. Department of Justice to provide federal protection against such threats.
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