A California lawmaker introduced a measure on Feb. 16 to keep election workers’ personal information confidential as a way to protect them from harassment.
Senate Bill 1131, proposed by Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), would remove the current requirement of publicly posting poll workers’ names—while keeping their political party preferences posted—and give them the option to keep their home addresses confidential—similar to the option available for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Newman said the proposed bill can help to maintain a free and fair election system “in the face of the kinds of aggressive and abusive behavior directed at election workers in recent years.”
“SB 1131 is a much-needed measure that will protect these dedicated and diligent public servants charged with administering California’s elections and safeguarding our most fundamental democratic processes,” Newman said in a statement.
According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, since election workers are public servants, their personal information, including home addresses and personal contact, may be available on official public records.
“Election officials and their staff are democracy’s front line workers. Conducting secure elections now requires safeguarding election workers’ physical safety,” said President and Founder of the California Voter Foundation Kim Alexander, a cosponsor of the bill.
In 2021, a survey conducted by research consultant company Benenson Strategy Group had 200 interviews with local election officials across the country and found that one in three local election officials feels unsafe and is concerned about facing harassment or pressure while on the job.
The survey also reveals that one in six local election officials have been threatened because of their job. Many of them believe social media has contributed to making their job more difficult and dangerous.
“Election officials should not have to fear for their safety or the safety of their families while doing their job. … Passing this bill would make the state a national leader in safeguarding election officials and keeping our democracy fair, free, and open to all,” said cosponsor of the bill Gowri Ramachandran, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice—a law and policy institute seeking to “strengthen democracy, end mass incarceration, and protect liberty and security,” according to its website.