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Election workers get more protection from threats under proposed legislation

Few problems in Longmont, Boulder County
Vote counters in Colorado will get more protection under a new law


Area election clerks say they have been spared the harassment and threats of violence thrown at their colleagues across the country as the nation braces for midterm elections.

Still, they are backing HB2-1273, which would make it unlawful for someone to threaten, coerce or intimidate, or attempt to threaten, coerce or intimidate, an election official with the intent to interfere with the performance of that official’s duties or with the intent to retaliate against the official for the performance of the official’s duties.

Longmont City Clerk Dawn Quintana said via email that it is “lamentable” that this type of legislation is needed to protect civil servants just doing their jobs. She adds Longmonters are generally polite when it comes to dealing with her office come Election Day.

“Close and contested elections, in particular, are of great interest to many people and, therefore, election officials are often on the receiving end of communications that range from praise to criticism,” Quintana said. “Longmont is not in a bubble in that regard, however, we are fortunate to have residents who are by and large thoughtful and respectful.”

Many states have either passed or are considering legislation to expand protections for election workers. Some proposed laws would levy heavy penalties for those who violently target people who count election ballots, according to the online news site

Oregon’s governor is expected to sign a bill into law in April that would make it a misdemeanor that includes up to a year in jail or more than $6,200 in fees for someone who threatened or harassed an election worker, states. The proposed law would also allow election workers to hide their home addresses from some public records.

The Colorado bill creates a new class 2 misdemeanor for intimidating or coercing an election official and a new class 1 misdemeanor for making an election official’s personal information available on the internet, according to the bill's fiscal note.

The Colorado Municipal League does not track the number of incidents or harassment aimed at municipal election officials. 

Still, Colorado’s municipal clerks have reported that threats and harassment related to their performance of election duties has become more prevalent than in the past, said Heather Stauffer, legislative and policy advocate for the CML.

“I do think this somewhat reflects the tensions as seen around elections on the national level,” Stauffer said via email. “Our clerks, election officials and election workers should not have their safety, or the safety of their families, put at risk because they are carrying out these important duties.”

The legislation will hopefully deter threats and harassment from happening in the future, she said.

Boulder County Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick said via email that neither she nor any staff have been targeted with violent threats. However, this is not the case throughout Colorado, nor the country, she said.

“I know firsthand numerous other Colorado clerks and staff have been targets of threats and harassment, as well as election colleagues in other states, '' Fitzpatrick said. “Sharing your thoughts and concerns about the election process is something all voters should be comfortable and encouraged to do but crossing that line into wild allegations and threats is unacceptable.”

Good and experienced people working the polls on Election Day should not have to worry about threats against themselves or their colleagues, Fitzpatrick said.

“Harassment of election officials was not even something I thought I’d have to consider when I first ran for office in 2018,” she said.