Maryland bill backed by Gov. Moore seeks to protect election officials from threats

Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation to enable authorities to prosecute people who threaten to harm election officials or their immediate family members, as threats are on the rise across the country.

The Protecting Election Officials Act of 2024, which has the support of Gov. Wes Moore, would make threatening an election official a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to $2,500.

“This has been a phenomenon which has occurred across the country,” said Eric Luedtke, Moore’s chief legislative officer, at a bill hearing Wednesday. “It’s a phenomenon that has targeted election workers, regardless of political affiliation, race, gender, what roles their filling.”

Ruie Marie LaVoie, who is vice president of the Maryland Association of Elections Officials and now serves as director of the Baltimore County Board of Elections, testified about her experience being threatened during the 2022 election. She testified before the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee that the measure would help ensure the safety and security “of those at the forefront of preserving our democratic processes.”

“We are struggling with recruitment, not only hiring election judges, but filling vacancies in our offices,” she said.

The measure would prohibit someone from knowingly and willfully making a threat to harm an election official or an immediate family member of an election official, because of the election official’s role in administering the election process.

Sarah David, Maryland’s deputy state prosecutor, said the measure contains language that already has been defined in case law. For example, the word harm in the bill would include emotional distress, she said.

“This is important legislation to address the modern reality of elections, the role of social media’s impact on election judges and other personnel, and would ensure that the integrity and fairness of our elections is maintained,” David said.

Jared DeMarinis, Maryland’s elections administrator, said state elections officials are on the front lines of democracy, and they already are experiencing vitriol for doing their jobs.



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