WASHINGTON, D.C. — Amid a wave of attacks on election workers nationwide, the Michigan Legislature took action last week, passing a bill that would create criminal penalties for intimidating or obstructing election workers from doing their jobs.
The legislation — which passed the House at the beginning of the month and cleared the Senate last Thursday — sets the punishment for an initial offense at a maximum of 93 days in prison and a fine of up to $500. A second offense can be punished with up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine, and any subsequent offenses would be escalated from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Just days ago, authorities announced that suspicious letters, some of which contained the deadly drug fentanyl, were sent to election offices in at least five states. The letters featured an array of threatening statements, and were described by multiple officials as examples of domestic terrorism.
Nevada passed a similar bill in May that created new offenses to protect election officials from intimidation and election interference. A right-wing lawsuit challenging the law was dismissed by a federal judge last month.
A survey released earlier this year by The Brennan Center for Justice focused on local election officials and noted that 30% of respondents indicated that they have personally been harassed or threatened because of their job. One in five reported they were likely to leave the job before 2024.
The bill now awaits the signature of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) as well as legislation allowing Michiganders aged 16 to 17 and a half to pre-register to vote. Whitmer recently signed a bill overturning an 1891 law that made it a misdemeanor to hire transportation to take voters to the polls unless they were physically unable to walk.