Bill To Protect Election Workers Signed Into Law Last Week

It prohibits individuals from  threatening or harassing election workers.

Annapolis, Md (KM) Election directors, poll workers, election judges and members of local boards of elections in Maryland will have some extra protection during  this campaign season. Last week, Governor Wes Moore signed the Protect Election Workers Act of 2024 into law. it prohibits anyone from “knowingly and willfully” harassing or threatening  election workers or their immediate family members because of the workers’ role in administering elections in the state. The offense is a misdemeanor , and violators  could be facing   imprisonment up to three years, or  fines not to exceed $2,500, or both.

“It’s sad that it is necessary in this day and age,” says Jared DeMarinis, the State Administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections. “The reaction has been very favorable among elections officials.”

This was an emergency bill which took affect after the Governor signed it into law.

DeMarinis says there have been incidents across the country where election workers have been harassed and threatened  with harm for doing their jobs. “Even in Maryland, we’ve had election judges being boxed, and local boards of elections receiving powdered substances. Luckily, it was never anything of a chemical nature.”

He says this law allows prosecutors to bring charges against those who threaten and harass election workers. “This gives us extra protections in it, and allows the state prosecutor’s office to proceed with criminal sanctions against that individual,” DeMarinis says.

Persons who disrupt activities at polling places can be dealt with by other laws, but DeMarinis says this new legislation covers those offenses which occur away from the polling places. “Harassment now has taken on new forms, and go on not during voting per se,” he says. “But just on the administration and preparation for the election. That’s when the harassment has started.”

On a related topic, DeMarinis says this harassment and threats against election workers had meant that it’s often difficult to find people who will take on these jobs. “You see it too with election judge recruitment where individuals that normally would want to help participate in our democracy and making sure the election goes off have second thoughts about it,” he says.

Maryland’s Primary Election Day is May 14th. Early voting will take place from May 2nd to May 9th.

By Kevin McManus