Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Secretary Bellows to testify on bill to protect election workers

AUGUSTA — Secretary of State Shenna Bellows will be testifying today on a bill to protect Maine’s election workers, and other election-related legislation.

The bill, L.D. 1821, “An Act To Make Interfering with an Election Official a Class C Crime” was introduced by Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville.

“Maine’s municipal clerks make it possible for every Maine citizen to exercise their right to vote through the impartial administration of free and fair elections,” said Secretary Bellows. “When our municipal clerks are threatened, especially in the course of performance of their official duties, our democracy itself is threatened.”

In the last year there has been a dramatic increase in documented threats against election officials all across the country. In July, the FBI announced a new law enforcement task force to deal with threats against election workers. In December, a national news organization, Reuters, conducted a nationwide investigation and identified 850 messages that met the level of threat that is a violation of federal law. “You and your family will be killed slowly.” “Watch your back. I know where you sleep, I see you sleeping. Be afraid, Be very afraid.” Here in Maine, the Secretary’s office received documented reports of at least two threats of physical violence against municipal clerks

“No local election official should have to worry about violent threats just for doing their job,” said Rep. White. “I’m proud to introduce a bill to protect those who work so hard to protect our democracy.”

L.D. 1821 makes it a class C crime to intentionally interfere by force, violence or intimidation or by any physical act with any public official who is in fact performing or the person believes is performing an official function relating to a federal, state or municipal election.

Secretary Bellows will also testify in favor of L.D. 1779, “An Act To Protect Election Integrity by Regulating Possession of Ballots and Voting Machines and Devices,” introduced by Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth.

The Department of the Secretary of State will also be testifying in favor of L.D. 1830, “An Act To Amend the Election Laws,” introduced by Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth.

The public hearing for all bills is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and can be viewed on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee’s YouTube.