California lawmakers consider bill to protect poll workers' privacy

With a political landscape that remains polarized and after several examples of harassment, California lawmakers are now considering a bill to protect election poll workers. 

"People who are frustrated with the conduct of election or the outcome of elections, are starting to take it out on the people administering elections," said the author of the bill, State Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton). 

Newman introduced SB1131, which would allow election workers to keep their home addresses private from public record. It would expand on the state’s "Safe at Home" program, which offers the protections to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking & elder and dependent abuse, as well as reproductive health care workers. 

"Elections staff in Nevada county, people forced themselves into the offices when it was closed to the public and a staff member got injured," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, which is co-sponsoring the bill. The non-partisan, non-profit works to improve the election process so that it better serves the needs and interests of voters. 

Alexander says examples of harassment and intimidation ramped up during the 2020 presidential election, the spread of misinformation and false claims of election fraud. 

"It was not until the 2020 election that I realized that protecting the people who run our elections is now part of election security," said Alexander. 

The Brennan Center recently surveyed elections officials nationwide and found 1 in 6 have experienced threats and 1 in 3 know of at least one worker who’s left their job because of fear for their safety. Senator Newman said that’s making it difficult to recruit and retain these critical workers. 

"There’s a saying ‘good fences make good neighbors," said Newman.  "Hopefully, if we can add some protections around this, maybe we’ll cause people to think a little more seriously about how they should participate in the elections process." 

Several states are considering similar measure. Oregon’s legislature passed a similar bill to protect addresses recently. SB1131 has cleared one hurdle, passing out of committee last week. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report