CARPIO: Election integrity means protecting election workers

January 15th, 2024

It only took seven minutes to kill seven months of work. 

That work was initiated and facilitated by members of the Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Committee. County Clerks from across the state, experts on the rising threat of election violence, concerned citizens, and election volunteers traveled and took time out of their workday to testify about their experiences of being threatened or intimidated. 

In seven minutes, all their hard work, the miles they traveled, the passion they’ve put into running our elections and volunteering at their polling place, was gone. House Bill 37: Election offenses – intimidation, a bill to expand protections for election workers and volunteers and preserve the safety and integrity of Wyoming’s elections, failed introduction. Failing introduction meant that the bill did not get past the first hurdle to receive the chance to be debated by the body, testified on again by the public, and meaningful conversation around the bills to ensue.

The Wyoming House of Representatives also failed to pass three other committee-sponsored bills regarding elections. Two would have potentially helped clarify our campaign finance laws– adding to the definition of an organization and urging Congress to keep dark money out of Wyoming campaigns. The third bill would have required candidates for the Wyoming Legislature to be residents of the state for a year before their election. 

Much of the vocal rhetoric surrounding elections focuses on election integrity. Keeping our election workers safe from abuse, regulating money’s influence in campaigns, and clarifying statutes surrounding campaign finance should be focal points of that concern. 

The same legislators who advocate for election integrity are those who voted against protections that would have been provided with House Bill 37.

House Bill 37 would have added a misdemeanor to the current felony of election intimidation, making it easier to prosecute those who verbally assault election officers.

In doing so, House Bill 37 would have protected our clerks, election judges, poll volunteers, and those who work hard to carry out our elections. These are our friends and neighbors, our locally elected officials: the people who have kept our elections fair, accurate, and secure for decades.

Recent research shows that 1 in 6 election workers have experienced threats in carrying out the most important function of our democratic society: elections. According to that same study, 77% of election workers said that on-the-job threats increased in recent years.

We must protect our elections – including protecting the people who run and secure those elections from threats and intimidation. The failure of House Bill 37 leaves our election workers vulnerable to intimidation without adequate recourse. If our legislators prioritize the integrity and safety of our elections, they must enact measures that protect those who uphold the sanctity of our democratic institutions.

Find the op-ed at WyoFile or the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

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