White House meeting follows ‘alarming’ trend of intimidation against people who help run nation’s elections
Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a group of election administrators and poll workers from across the US for a “frank discussion about the work, the responsibility, the commitment and challenges” facing election workers.
The White House meeting follows rising reports of intimidation and violent threats against election workers, typically nonpartisan local officials and volunteers who keep America’s elections on track, and restrictive election laws from Republican lawmakers targeting their work.
“You’re the people who make elections happen,” the vice president said on 21 juillet. “We dare not take the work of poll workers for granted.”
Ensuring safe working conditions for “poll workers – unencumbered, without intimidation, without threats – should be a commitment we all have,” she said before the meeting.
The purpose of the meeting – which also included White House counsel Dana Remus and voting rights adviser Justin Levitt – was to hold a “discussion about how we can ensure as we go forward that the American people have a fair, transparent, accessible opportunity to exercise their voice through their vote,” said Ms Harris, who is leading the voting rights response under Joe Biden’s administration.
Violent threats against election workers have reached an “alarming” level in the US, according to a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and the Bipartisan Policy Center.
One in three election workers feels unsafe because of their job, and one in six has faced threats as they help run the nation’s elections, the report found.
Seventy-eight per cent of the report’s respondents said mis- and disinformation on social media made their jobs more difficult, tandis que 54 per cent said it made their jobs more dangerous.
GOP lawmakers across the US have turned the administrative task of running the nation’s elections into a hostile political minefield, while Donald Trump continues to wage an assault on the electoral process with a baseless narrative that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him, and falsely asserting that the process was a “hoax” and “corrupt” before a single ballot was cast.
Republican-sponsored legislation has sought to roll back early voting and mail-in voting options, among other restrictive measures, while other proposals would impose criminal penalties against election workers who proactively send out mail-in ballot applications or advertise upcoming elections on social media.
Republican leaders in at least 17 states have enacted at least 28 new laws that restrict access to the ballot.
UNE parallel effort from GOP lawmakers has seen more than 200 bills in 41 states that give themselves more authority over the electoral process. Au moins 24 of those bills have been signed into law.
Heightened partisan interference and increased pressure from GOP-backed campaigns to put their thumbs on the electoral scale could also have long-term impacts among elections agencies, as nearly 35 per cent of local election officials in 2020 were eligible for retirement by the 2024 élection, the Brennan and Bipartisan Policy Center report found.
The vice president recently tested negative for Covid-19 following a meeting with a group of Democratic state lawmakers from Texas, several of whom have tested positive. Officials said she was not in close contact with infected lawmakers and did not need to quarantine.