JEFFERSON COUNTY, Wash. — The 2022 midterm elections are a week away, and there is a new law in effect that makes it a felony to threaten election workers online.
This comes as the FBI issued a warning in October that threats to election workers could be tied to the midterms.
The new law went into effect in June, and since then, the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office said it's reviewing a case of an election worker who reported receiving threatening emails.
State Sen. David Frockt (D) said after seeing threats following the 2020 election, he wanted to make sure those who are counting ballots have additional legal protections.
“I thought it was really important to make a statement that we're not going to tolerate that here in Washington. That's not how we do things, and it's not acceptable,” said Frockt, who represents the 46th Legislative District.
Frockt introduced legislation in 2020 and 2021 that would've made it a felony to threaten an election worker online or at their home. It passed the state Senate twice but got held up in the House.
“I was surprised that my own party didn't take it as seriously as I thought it needed to be taken,” Frockt said.
What did pass was an amendment to the state's cyberstalking law. The amendment now makes threatening an election worker online a felony.
“I hope somebody, if they are threatening people who are just doing their civic duty, who are election workers, that they get prosecuted, and it gets publicized, and people know if you do this, you're going go to jail,” said Frockt.
Frockt noted that while threats aren't as prevalent in Washington as they are in other parts of the country, state officials have been threatened before.
In 2020, a website targeting elections officials around the country included the state's then-elections director, posting her home address and crosshairs over her photo.
“This is a cancer that's growing in our society,” Frockt said. “If people don't have confidence in the elections, I think we have real problems in our democracy.”
Frockt said he’s keeping an eye on next week’s election to see if more protections for election workers are needed in the future.