NC needs Safeguarding Fair Elections Act
Published 2:16 p.m. Thursday
Editor's note: Melissa Price Kromm is Director, North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections. This column was first posted by WRAL.com
Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t spend our days thinking about the roads and bridges we drive on, the water we drink or the power grid that keeps the lights on. We depend on our government to make sure our bridges are safe, our water is clean and our power grid is operating. But we can’t take it for granted that will always be the case.
The same thing is true of our elections.
When we vote, we are relying on our election officials to send out and process vote-by-mail ballots, provide convenient and efficient early voting, run our polling places on Election Day, secure every ballot and count every vote accurately. We are depending on our trusted local officials to make democracy work for us all. But they can’t do that if we don’t give them the tools they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
This month Americans are coming together to watch several hearings by the January 6th Select Committee. We are learning more about how "MAGA" Republicans planned, promoted and paid for a criminal conspiracy to overturn an election they had lost.
However, that’s just the beginning of the story. These extremists are waging an ongoing campaign to sabotage future elections by making it easier to overturn elections they lose and putting up deliberate barriers to voting. They are changing the rules for political gain and threatening election administrators who won’t go along with them.
As we saw during this week’s January 6th committee hearings, Donald Trump and his "MAGA" allies mounted an all-out effort to force state and local officials to falsify election results. In one example of their pressure campaign, they targeted Georgia election workers, who faced death threats and racist abuse simply because they did their jobs. In Michigan, Trump followers went to the secretary of state’s house and threatened her while she was at home with her child.
Unfortunately, despite the growing threat, federal legislation to prevent election sabotage is stalled in Congress.
We can’t wait for action from Washington. North Carolina needs legislation toSafeguard Fair Elections, and we need it now. Here’s why:
- A recent survey by the Brennan Center found that nearly one in three local election workers know someone who has left their role “because of fears for their safety, increased threats or intimidation.”
- One in three local election officials felt unsafe because of their job and one in six local election officials said they had been threatened.
- 77% of surveyed election officials say that they feel these threats have increased in recent years.
- During the 2020 election, the Wake County Board of Elections required armed guards to protect the staff there, after multiple incidents of stalking.
- Earlier this year, the State Board of Elections found that a Surry County Republican leader threatened to fire the county’s director of elections unless she provided him with illegal access to voting equipment and voters’ sensitive information.
Poll workers are helpful, friendly and honest. They are our friends and neighbors. Simply put, they are ordinary people, doing ordinary things, working together to ensure all of our voices are heard and our votes are counted. They must be able to do their jobs without fear of violence or harassment. If hard-working and dedicated election workers decide to step aside and no one steps up to fill their shoes, that will be a recipe for chaos at the polls.
We must protect election workers in order to protect our elections.
The North Carolina Safeguard Fair Elections Act would make it a crime to intimidate, threaten or engage in violence against election officials, and it would help protect voters from coercion before or on Election Day. Finally, it would hold state officials accountable to ensure they respect the will of the people.
When you flip on the lights, you expect the electricity to work. When you cast your ballot, you expect it to be counted. We need leaders and laws that ensure accountability to ensure the system works the way it should, and the Safeguard Fair Elections Act will get it done.