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Threats of violence and acts of intimidation directed toward election workers have increased significantly. Election workers include full- and part-time state and local election officials and the large temporary workforce who administer U.S. elections. The growing threat has contributed to staffing shortages and a loss of institutional knowledge because of increased election worker resignations and difficulty in recruiting new talent.

Rising concern for election workers’ security and the challenges it poses for accessible and secure elections have resulted in a growing bipartisan consensus that Congress should address the problem.


1. Establish federal criminal penalties for threatening, intimidating, or harassing election workers

Explicit criminal penalties for threatening, intimidating, or harassing election workers would be established by expanding and clarifying existing federal statutes. For example, existing prohibitions against voter intimidation could be expanded to include intimidation of election workers. Another example would be to strengthen an existing federal statute permitting the Department of Justice to prosecute an individual who injures, intimidates, or interferes with an election official if the Attorney General certifies federal prosecution would be “in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.” The clarifications would explicitly include election workers processing ballots and tabulating, canvassing, or certifying votes.


Research organizations from across the political spectrum have conducted studies and compiled reports on election worker threats since 2020. Key data points below are sourced from these studies and reports (see Appendix A), as well as news reports (see Appendix B):

  • One-sixth of election workers surveyed have personally experienced threats
  • Three-fourths of election workers report threats have increased in recent years
  • One-third of election workers surveyed feel unsafe because of their election worker job
  • One-fifth of election workers surveyed listed threats to life as job-related concern
  • One-half of threats go unreported
  • 78% of voters are concerned about the increase in threats and intimidation against election workers; 71% of voters are concerned about recruiting enough election workers due to threats and intimidation
  • One-fifth of election workers report they are unlikely or somewhat unlikely to continue their work in the 2024 election
  • Nearly one-third of election workers report knowing someone who has resigned in part due to threats
  • Three-fifths of election workers report concerns that threats and fear for safety will hinder retention and recruitment efforts
  • Election workers are overwhelmingly white, female, and between 50–64 years of age; and threats often include gender- and race-based language against women and minorities
  • On February 5, 2021, chief election officers from Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington signed a resolution condemning “in the strongest possible terms, violence and threats of violence against election workers.”

The Case For

Supporters of additional federal protections for election workers argue first and foremost that ensuring election workers can conduct elections without sacrificing their safety (and that of their families) is a national imperative for our democracy to function effectively. They argue that without these measures state and local governments will be unable to retain, protect, and recruit the capable election workers our country needs to have the accurate and trustworthy elections that are essential to our system of government. Proponents observe that state election officials possess vital institutional knowledge that is difficult to replace.

Recognizing the need, ten state legislatures have weighed criminal penalties for threatening election officials since the 2020 election. Supporters argue that federal legislation would ensure uniformity and expand federal law enforcement capabilities to counteract new threats which often extend beyond the jurisdiction of a single state. They also argue that it is appropriate for the federal government to help protect state and local election workers against threats they face because they are carrying out the federal mandate to conduct elections.

The Case Against

Opponents observe that the Constitution assigns primary responsibility for conducting elections, including federal elections, to the states. Each state should make its own decisions about protecting election workers. Opponents also note that states are, in fact, acting on this threat. Another reason that opponents argue election worker security should be left to the states is that federal provisions would arguably only cover federal elections. Some also argue that state or federal laws prohibiting threats and harassment of election officials could prevent people from expressing valid concerns about how elections are administered.