Jail is the new threat to election workers

By Fredreka Schouten and Kelly Mena, CNN

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Arizona election officials could face criminal charges if a noncitizen registers to vote under their watch. In Iowa, a law enacted last year makes it a crime for election clerks to willfully violate state election laws. And in Florida, election supervisors face fines of up to $25,000 for leaving a ballot box unattended.

Across the country, election administrators are facing a growing number of punitive new laws as Republican lawmakers try to restrict access to the ballot after record turnout in the 2020 election and relentless false allegations from former President Donald Trump and his allies that widespread voter fraud cost him a second term. .

This year alone, lawmakers introduced 16 different bills in eight states that create new criminal or civil penalties for duties associated with holding elections, said Will Wilder, who works on suffrage at the Brennan Center. for Justice, from the left.

Combined with the threats and harassment election officials have faced and other laws that make it easier to fire them, “it all adds up to an attack on professional election administration,” he said.

“A little scary”

The new penalties in Arizona stem from a controversial law signed earlier this year that requires voters to prove their citizenship to vote in a presidential election.

First, some background: Arizona is the only state that requires voters to prove their citizenship when they vote — a consequence of a 2004 ballot measure in the state. (A handful of other states have similar laws on the books, but they haven’t been enforced.)

The United States Supreme Court in 2013, however, struck down Arizona’s citizenship proof provision, saying that – although the state may set eligibility rules for its elections – federal law requires that the Accepts Federal Voter Registration Form for Federal Elections. This form requires voters to certify that they are US citizens, but they do not have to provide documentation proving their citizenship.

This resulted in a bifurcated system in Arizona with a separate class of so-called “federal-only” voters who could only vote in races for the United States House, Senate, and White House.

In a letter outlining his support for the new law, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, said a growing number of federal-only voters are participating in state elections. “Election integrity,” he said, “means counting every legal vote and prohibiting any attempt to vote illegally.”

This all comes against the backdrop of growing election competitiveness in this once deep red state. President Joe Biden won Arizona by less than 11,000 votes in 2020.

The new law, which takes effect in December, says an election official who fails to reject a registration application without proof of citizenship or knowingly attempts to register a non-citizen could face felony charges.

A voting rights group immediately filed a legal challenge to the law.

While legal battles unfold, the requirement for proof of citizenship “puts county recorders in a very difficult position,” Patty Hansen, the top election official in northern Coconino County, said recently. Arizona, to Fredreka. “Are we following state laws or federal laws? It’s very disturbing and a bit scary.

In Pima County — Arizona’s second-most populous county, which includes the Democratic stronghold of Tucson — recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly said she was angry at the measure and what she calls the efforts broader state lawmakers to “criminalize as many people as possible.”

But she will have to comply once the law comes into force.

“I don’t plan on going to jail anytime soon,” said Cázares-Kelly, a 2020 Democrat elected. “We’ll have to wait for someone to sue us for violating their rights.”

Find fixes

In Florida, at least one election supervisor has found a workaround to comply with the state’s new law establishing a stiff fine for unattended drop boxes.

Alan Hayes, the election supervisor in Lake County, just outside Orlando, said he removed the drop box outside his office and replaced it with a mailbox of the US Postal Service.

“I’m not going to pay a staff member to stand in the sun or stand at two in the morning with a camera watching that drop box very well,” Hayes told Kelly. “So what did I do?” I called the local postmaster.

Republican members of Congress face off

Today is primary day again, with voting ending in Nebraska and West Virginia.

One of the big races to watch: The first member-vs.-member midterms primary, which will see West Virginia GOP representatives Alex Mooney and David McKinley face off after the state lost a seat in the redistribution.

Former President Donald Trump’s influence over the Republican Party will be tested again as he endorsed Mooney. McKinley has the support of Republican Governor Jim Justice and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

Meanwhile, in Nebraska, the focus is on the GOP’s three-way race for governor between businessman/celebrity/rancher Charles Herbster, farmer and Nebraska Board of Regents member Jim Pillen and State Senator Brett Lindstrom. Trump endorsed Herbster, who faces multiple sexual misconduct allegations, in the race. Herbster denied the allegations.

Polls close in West Virginia and Nebraska at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET, respectively.

you must read

  • A deep dive into Nebraska’s gubernatorial race by CNN’s Rachel Janfaza and Maeve Reston.
  • Ronald Brownstein’s look at the growing gap between an increasingly diverse American population and election results shaped by the voting preferences of older white Americans.
  • Fredreka’s look at why some conservative voices fear the GOP’s relentless focus on the 2020 election will cost the party in 2022 in the key battleground state of Wisconsin.
  • Kelly’s story from last year about New York opening the door to non-citizen voting. The nation’s largest city’s decision to allow lawful permanent residents to vote on municipal issues has sparked intense debate across the country.

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