Legislation Addressing Harassment of Election Workers Passes the Senate
Sacramento, Calif. – The California State Senate approved legislation today to protect election workers by keeping their home addresses confidential. SB 1131, authored by Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), passed with a 30-8-2 vote. The bill will stymie increasing harassment and violent threats directed at election workers.
“The rise of aggressive and abusive behavior directed at election workers has begun to affect our ability to efficiently administer elections in California,” said Senator Newman. “As the midterm elections approach, this legislation is needed to protect the Californians who do the largely thankless but essential work of ensuring that our elections are free, fair and administered effectively.”
In recent years, election workers have been subject to “doxing” (publicly revealing private information) and increasing harassment as the result of their names, photographs and addresses being posted online and on social media platforms.
"Election officials and their staff are democracy’s frontline workers,” said Kim Alexander, President and Founder of the California Voter Foundation, cosponsor of SB 1131. “Conducting secure elections now requires safeguarding election workers' physical safety. This legislation will help protect California’s election workers from threats and harassment and provide an additional layer of election security.”
Prior to and after the 2020 general election, violent threats and harassment of election workers reached alarming levels, an unnerving trend that has continued unabated. A 2021 nationwide survey of election workers found that as many as 1 in 3 feel unsafe and that nearly 1 in 6 listed threats to their lives as a job-related concern.
“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, cosponsor of SB 1131. “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.”
To offset the growing wave of harassment and violent threats directed at election workers, 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 victims 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.
To reduce the likelihood that poll workers may be subject to doxing and targeting, SB 1131 also would eliminate the current statutory requirement for posting the names of poll workers at polling places, yet still would require the responsible election official to post the political party preferences of people working at a particular polling place.
SB 1131 now heads to the Assembly for policy committee discussions.
This legislation is supported by the Brennan Center for Justice, California Voter Foundation, California Association of Clerks & Elections Officials, League of Women Voters, Orange County Employees Association, City Clerks 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, Resistance Northridge Indivisible and Valley Women’s Club of San Lorenzo Valley.
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.