Court Battles

Top Judiciary Democrat’s bill would criminalize threats to election officials

Washington Examiner/Pool

A top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee launched an effort Monday to beef up criminal penalties for threats against election officials, which have escalated dramatically as President Trump has pressed baseless voter fraud claims following his electoral loss.

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), who serves as vice chair of the influential panel, urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a letter to investigate serious threats against election officials and poll workers that have come amid an increasingly hostile campaign of post-election misinformation.

She also introduced a bill that would build on existing election-related legal protections and broaden criminal punishment against perpetrators.

“You have to think about the fact that most of our elections are run by volunteers from our communities, who are [typically] seniors,” she told The Hill in an interview. “These are our friends and neighbors who suddenly found themselves very much in a bullseye of national attention, through no fault of their own and without any basis.”

Scanlon’s election security push comes as state electors gathered across the country on Monday to finalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

That process normally occurs in relative obscurity and far away from the glare of partisan politics. But in the key battleground state of Michigan — which Biden won by more than 154,000 votes — security concerns forced legislative office buildings to close for electoral voting.

State Rep. Kevin Hertel (D) tweeted on Sunday that the closure was occurring “because credible threats have been made as Michigan’s electors to the Electoral College will meet at the Capitol.”

Nationwide, Biden won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, and earned more than 7 million more votes than Trump. Yet despite this — and without basis in fact — Trump and his allies have relentlessly asserted that the election results are untrustworthy.

The president and his backers have filed dozens of lawsuits to press their claims in court — with abysmal results. Trump’s lone post-election legal victory, in Pennsylvania state court, was decided on narrow grounds. It concerned only a tiny sliver of raw votes and came in a ruling that was unrelated to allegations of fraud.

According to Scanlon, the campaign by Trump and his allies to undermine the election’s integrity and cast doubt about the authenticity of Biden’s win is the main driver of threats being aimed at election workers this cycle.

“I think there is a direct line to be drawn here since this is the president and his campaign team and his lawyers who have been making those baseless allegations,” she said Monday. “What we have here is — starting in the White House and then with the support and collusion, really, of a lot of Republican legislators and officials — disinformation being spread to the American people.”

“So either they don’t have accurate information,” she added, “or they’re willingly spreading bad information, and either one is wrong.”

Scanlon’s legislation would broaden a current federal law that protects voters to include protections for election officials.

Tags 2020 presidential election Donald Trump House Judiciary Committee Joe Biden Mary Gay Scanlon threats against election officials voter fraud claims

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