The Oregon Senate passed the Election Worker Safety and Voter Privacy legislation on April 5, 2023. Senate Bill 166 (SB166) increases penalties for harassing election workers. Furthermore, it sets new procedures to secure voters’ privacy further.
This legislation addresses the increasing struggle to keep Americans safe when casting ballots. Despite Oregon’s convenient Vote by Mail system, voter and election worker safety remain a concern, especially since the rise of right-wing extremists.
Harassing election workers is already illegal in the state. During the 2022 legislative session, Oregon’s then-Governor Kate Brown signed a bill to keep poll workers’ residential addresses out of county clerk public record disclosures. Moreover, the law made it increased the consequences of intimidating and threatening election representatives and established significant imprisonment and fines to guarantee election worker safety.
However, with SB166, Oregon’s Sentors explicitly guarantee the right to vote using a secret ballot. The bill also reclassifies crimes against election workers from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class A felony with a fine of up to $125,000 or five years prison term, or both.
Election Worker Safety and Voter Privacy SB166 announcement:
Today, the Oregon Senate passed Senate Bill 166, which will further protect voters, election workers, and the integrity of Oregon’s electoral process. In response to rising threats against election officials, the bill defends voters’ right to privacy, increases penalties for harassment of election workers, and sets new guidelines for annual county elections security plans.
“Election workers are essential defenders of our democracy. We have a duty to keep them safe,” said Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber (D – Beaverton & SW Portland), who carried the legislation on the floor. “Harassment of election workers not only puts them in danger, it puts all of us in danger because it undermines trust in our democratic process. Oregonians’ rights, freedoms, and safety depend on the integrity of our elections, and this bill is an important response to rising threats and strengthen our democracy.”
SB 166 explicitly guarantees elector’s right to vote by secret ballot and reclassifies harassment against election workers from Class A misdemeanor to Class C felony. It also establishes that the crime of aggravated harassment includes harassment against election workers and punishes crimes of harassment or aggravated harassment against election workers by maximum of five years’ imprisonment, $125,000 fine, or both. It also alters requirements for annual county elections security plans.
Protecting election workers and Oregon’s elections are a key priority in Senate Democrats’ 2023 Oregon Works Agenda.
SB 166 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Posted by Cathy Milne-Ware
State of Oregon Senate: Press Release (April 5, 2023)
OPB: Harassing election workers could lead to prison under Oregon bill; by Dirk VanderHart
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Unsplash+