June 20, 2024

House passes Rep. Dawson’s bill to protect election workers

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State House – The House today passed legislation (2024-H 7447) sponsored by Rep. Matthew S. Dawson that would protect election officials and poll workers. Representative Dawson worked closely with Secretary of State Gregg M. Amore to introduce the legislation.

“The political vitriol in our society today caused by polarization and misinformation has reached a concerning level, and the amount of threats received by dedicated election officials and poll workers nationwide seems to rise with every election. This is unacceptable and to threaten or intimidate these workers who safeguard our democracy through ensuring free and fair elections has no place in our state. This bill will protect our election workers, while also serving as a deterrent for anyone considering crossing the line and seriously threatening election officials and poll workers,” said Representative Dawson (D-Dist. 65, East Providence).

“The rhetoric and misinformation that continues to threaten our democracy also threatens the people on the ground - election officials,” said Secretary of State Amore. “Public service is noble and needed, and these public servants deserve to do their job without fear of harassment or threats. I applaud the House of Representatives for taking this step to protect election officials who are serving in this critical role here in Rhode Island.”

The bill would consider election officials and poll workers “public officials” for purposes of the prohibition on making threats to public officials.

Threats to public officials constitutes knowingly and willfully delivering or conveying, directly or indirectly, a verbal or written threat to take the life of, or to inflict bodily harm upon, a public official or a member of their immediate family because of the performance or nonperformance of some public duty. Violators of the law would be guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned for not more than five years, or fined not more than $5,000, or both.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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