California Election Workers Protected Under New Law
Sacramento, Calif. – With less than two months before the midterm election, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation today to address the rise in harassment of election workers. SB 1131, authored by Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), will provide protection and peace of mind to election workers in California by providing them with the option of keeping their home addresses confidential. The legislation has an urgency measure and will go into effect immediately.
“One of the byproducts of an increasingly hostile and polarized political environment has been an alarming rise in threats to election workers and other civil servants,” said Senator Josh Newman. “With midterm elections nearing, the safety and peace of mind of hardworking election workers should be a top priority. Under this urgently needed legislation, the men and women who do the often unheralded work of making democracy and local government work will be appropriately protected from the kinds of threats, harassment, and physical intimidation that have recently become all too common.”
According to a 2021 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, one in three local election officials are concerned about facing harassment or pressure while on the job and feel unsafe and one in six election workers have been threatened because of their job.
SB 1131 will allow election workers to enroll in either of the state’s existing address protection programs — the Secretary of State’s Safe at Home program or the state’s address confidentiality program for public officials.
Safe at Home, designed to protect survivors of domestic violence and people who work at reproductive healthcare facilities, redirects the mail of those enrolled in the program to a different mailing address. Alternatively, election workers may enroll in a program that allows state and local agencies to respond to public records requests without disclosing the address of an election worker.
In the final stages of the legislative process, SB 1131 was expanded to include all public employees who are subjected to credible threats arising from that work. Most notably, the bill includes code enforcement officers who were tasked with enforcing several health and safety ordinances during the pandemic.
This legislation is sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice and California Voter Foundation with support from the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, California Association of Clerks & Elections Officials, League of Women Voters Orange County Employees Association, City Clerks Association of California, California Association of Code Enforcement Officers, California Association of Joint Powers Authorities, California State Association of Counties, Association of California School Administrators, League of California Cities, California School Boards Association, County Health Executives Association of California, 350 SOUTH BAY LOS ANGELES, Clean Coalition, Cloverdale Indivisible, Indivisible Alta Pasadena, Indivisible California Green Team, Indivisible Marin, Indivisible Media City Burbank, Indivisible Mendocino, Indivisible Resistance San Diego, Indivisible Riverside, Indivisible Ross Valley, Indivisible Sacramento, Indivisible San Jose, Indivisible Sonoma County, Indivisible South Bay LA, Indivisible Stanislaus, Livermore Indivisible, Long Beach Alliance for Green Energy, Progressive Democrats of Santa Monica Mountains, SoCal 350, Stand Strong LA Indivisible, the Resistance Northridge, Indivisible Valley Women’s Club of San Lorenzo Valley.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
“Threats to democracy is the number one issue on the minds of U.S. voters right now,” said Kim Alexander, President of the California Voter Foundation, citing results from NBC News’ latest public opinion poll. “SB 1131, upon being signed into law, will immediately give democracy’s frontline workers greater ability to protect themselves and their families from harm.”
“Election officials should not have to fear for their safety or the safety of their families while doing their job,” said Gowri Ramachandran, Senior Counsel in the Democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “California must protect them as they protect our elections. Passing this bill would make the state a national leader in safeguarding election officials and keeping our democracy fair, free, and open to all.”
"Election workers strive every day to protect our vote and our voice in democracy," said Stephanie Doute, Executive Director for the League of Women Voters of California, a supporter of SB 1131. "The ongoing violent threats against and harassment of election workers makes it vital for us to ensure their safety and privacy."
“OCEA thanks Senator Newman and the State Legislature for passing SB1131. The workers administering California’s elections, disseminating public health orders, and enforcing government codes have been subjected to threats, intimidation, and sometimes physical violence at polling places, in their offices, and even at their homes. These workers are now safer because of this legislation,” said Tim Steed, Assistant General Manager, Orange County Employees Association.
To schedule an interview with Senator Newman, contact Lizzie Cootsona at 916.651.4029.
State Senator Josh Newman represents the 29th Senate District, which is comprised of portions of Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Bernardino County. The 29th District includes all or parts of the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Chino Hills, City of Industry, Cypress, Diamond Bar, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Placentia, Rowland Heights, Stanton, Walnut, West Covina and Yorba Linda. Senator Newman is a former United States Army officer, businessperson, and veterans’ advocate, and lives in Fullerton with his wife and daughter.