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Bill protecting Oregon election workers heads to governor

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Bill protecting Oregon election workers heads to governor

Mar 03, 2022 | 6:48 pm ET
By Julia Shumway
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Bill protecting Oregon election workers heads to governor
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A Multnomah County election worker sorts ballots on Oct. 22, 2020. (Motoya Nakamura/Multnomah County)

County clerks and other election workers can keep their addresses private and people who harass them will face jail time under a bill waiting for Gov. Kate Brown’s signature. 

The Oregon Senate voted 26-0 on Thursday to pass House Bill 4144, following a bipartisan vote in the House last week. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan proposed it to address concerns from election workers, including some in her office, over continued threats and harassment from people unhappy with the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

County clerks have spent the past two years fielding threatening calls and emails about the 2020 election, and one found the phrase “VOTE DON’T WORK. NEXT TIME BULLETS” painted over a parking lot across from her office. In the Secretary of State’s office, 10 of 13 election division employees reported receiving threats.

“As we head into the 2022 election season, we must do all we can to protect election workers against physical harm, while also sending a clear message that attempts to interfere in elections will not change the results,” Fagan said in a statement. “We must protect the hardworking Oregonians who protect our democracy.”

Fagan had proposed treating harassment of an election worker as a felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and a $125,000 fine. Legislators reduced it to a  misdemeanor, with up to a year in jail and a $6,250 fine. 

The legislation allows election workers to keep secret their home addresses listed in public records, something now allowed for people including survivors of domestic violence. Their information is kept out of public view when they can prove that disclosure would put them in danger.

Lawmakers didn’t take up changes advocated by the League of Women Voters that would have vastly expanded privacy protections for candidates for office, protesters, volunteers, jurors, elected officials and advisors, consultants and assistants for government officials. The League sought to keep those individuals’ email addresses, phone numbers, employer contact information and home addresses secret. Most candidates now list phone numbers and email addresses in their filings to run for office.