Bill hardening penalties for WA election worker harassment OK’d

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure that would make it a Class C felony to harass an election worker, with violations potentially resulting in a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

It’s the second time the Democratic-led chamber has voted on the measure, first passing it last year. The measure now heads to the House, also led by Democrats, where it stalled last year.

The measure was sparked by reports of threats to workers across the country following the 2020 presidential election and the misinformation that stemmed from that, and continues to date.

Democratic Sen. David Frockt, the bill’s sponsor, said the measure is needed to address “a grievous threat to our democratic system.”

“All of us know that this is wrong, and that we ought to make a bold statement so that people know that in our state, in Washington, we will not tolerate this, we will not undermine our elections process and we will protect those who do a very noble service for us,” he said.

Harassment is generally a gross misdemeanor, but rises to a Class C felony in cases certain circumstances, including harassing a criminal justice participant who is performing their official duties at the time the threat is made.

If passed by the full Legislature, someone who harasses an election official who is performing his or her official duties at the time the threat is made is added to that list, as is harassing an election official because of an action taken or decision made by the election official during the performance of his or her official duties.