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Harassing poll workers could soon be a crime

row of voting booths at a polling station

A new proposal could make it a crime to harass poll workers.

The bill, HB 721, would make it a third-degree felony to intimidate, harass or threaten a poll worker. The proposal is supported by a host of election officials.

Boynton Beach Democratic Representative Joe Casello said election officials have had difficulty retaining poll workers because those employees have been subject to name calling, threats and harassment while working during recent elections.

“Other incidents include a polling place worker were followed from their cars, being told things such as ‘we know where you live’ and having their license plates photographed,” he said.

During public comment at the bill’s Wednesday committee stop, dozens of people submitted appearance cards opposing the measure, but none actually spoke. West Palm Beach Republican Representative Rick Roth thinks that opposition is due to concerns about how the state does elections.

“The general public is a little bit agitated about our election process. They are not sure whether the election process is really working well, and they hear all kinds of stories in Arizona and blahdedadeda. So, this is important,” he said.

Florida Republicans have passed several election-focused bills since former President Donald Trump falsely claimed the last presidential election was stolen. No verified complaints have been levied against Florida’s election system in recent years.

Roth said that although people may have election concerns, those concerns should be dealt with civilly and go through proper official channels.

“People need to come into, when they are a poll watcher or observer, when they come into the place of business where the supervisor is counting ballots and doing all the processes, they have to do it with respect,” he said.

Both the house and senate versions of the bill have received bipartisan support so far.

Tristan Wood is a senior producer and host with WFSU Public Media. A South Florida native and University of Florida graduate, he focuses on state government in the Sunshine State and local panhandle political happenings.
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