On Wednesday(April 5, 2023), the Oregon Senate passed a measure that would toughen the penalty for harassing election workers. Senate Bill 166 (SB 166), which specifies new standards for prosecution, was introduced at the request of Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and was recently passed by the Senate.
Currently, harassment directed at election workers is considered a Class A misdemeanor in the United States. Under Senate Bill 166, the crime would be elevated to a Class C felony, with a possible prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $125,000, or both.
The introduction of the measure coincides with an increase, throughout the nation, in the incidence of harassment directed against election workers.
According to a poll by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, one in six people who work in election administration has been subjected to threats or other forms of harassment. More than half of them are unlikely to continue working in this capacity in 2024.
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Election workers in Oregon, including those in Lane County, have signed a statement indicating their support for the bill. The statement reads as follows: “Election workers across the country have increasingly been subjected to harassment and other hostile behavior… the Oregon Association of County Clerks supports the goals and objectives of the Secretary of State with regard to election worker safety and ballot security.”
April 6, 2023, marked the beginning of the first reading of Senate Bill 166, which took place on the House Floor.