Skip to main content

labor Republicans Are Suing for the Right To Harass Election Workers

A political party that shamelessly spreads election denialism is capable of worse.

You might think that even in today’s highly polarized election environment there would be a bipartisan consensus to protect election workers from intimidation and harassment. If you thought so, you would be wrong. In recent weeks, there have been a series of lawsuits aimed at undoing protections for election workers.

Nevada recently enacted a new Election Worker Protection Law to combat the increasing threats faced by election workers. The law, which passed the Legislature unanimously and was signed by the Republican governor, makes it a crime “to use or threaten or attempt to use any force, intimidation, coercion, violence, restraint or undue influence with the intent to interfere with the performance of the duties of any elections official relating to an election; or retaliate against any elections official for performing duties relating to an election.”

Shortly after the law was enacted, the Republican Party’s failed 2022 attorney general candidate — who is currently a Republican National Committeewoman — filed a lawsuit to block the law. Her argument is that the law violates her First Amendment rights and is too vague to understand.

Meanwhile in Arizona, right wing organizations, including America First Policy Institute founded by former Trump aides, are suing to block the anti-harassment provisions of the state’s Election Procedures Manual from going into effect. Among the provisions they find objectionable are those that prohibit:

  • Any activity by a person with the intent or effect of threatening, harassing, intimidating, or coercing voters (or conspiring with others to do so),
  • Aggressive behavior, such as raising one’s voice or taunting a voter or poll worker,
  • Using threatening, insulting or offensive language to a voter or poll worker,
  • Following voters or poll workers coming to or leaving a voting location, including to or from their vehicles,
  • Questioning, photographing or videotaping voters or poll workers in a harassing or intimidating manner, including when the voter or poll worker is entering or leaving the polling location.

It is not only election officials that right-wing groups want to be able to harass — it is also voters. In Minnesota, an anti-voting outfit ironically called the Minnesota Voters Alliance is challenging a law that prohibits making statements that intend “to impede or prevent another person from exercising the right to vote”’ within 60 days of an election.

Specifically, the challenged law makes it a crime to “intentionally hinder, interfere with, or prevent another person from voting, registering to vote, or aiding another person in casting a ballot or registering to vote.” Another provision bans false speech about the “the time, place, or manner of holding an election; the qualifications for or restrictions on voter eligibility at an election; and threats to physical safety associated with casting a ballot.”

Among their legal arguments, the plaintiffs complain that their First Amendment rights are being infringed because “there is no definition of ‘impede’ [and] no description of what constitutes a ‘threat’ ‘to physical safety.’”

A Nevada federal court has already dismissed the lawsuit in that state. I fully expect the courts in Arizona and Minnesota to follow suit. But the mere fact that these lawsuits have been filed tells us all we need to know about the priorities of the GOP and its right-wing allies this fall.

I have previously warned that right-wing vigilantism is the greatest threat to free and fair elections this November. This includes mass voter challenges, disinformation campaigns aimed at misleading voters and, sadly, targeting election officials and voters for intimidation and harassment.

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

Republicans know that this November they will lose the popular vote for president by millions of votes. Their only strategy to overcome this deficit is to make it harder to vote and easier to cheat. That is why former President Donald Trump’s senior advisor who now effectively runs the Republican National Committee, Chris LaCivita, recently insisted that “the RNC’s new posture as it relates to litigation is much more offensive and much less defensive.”

Suing to add obstacles to vote and to purge voters is the kind of Republicans playing offense that all too many people now accept as normal. Suing to empower vigilantes to harass voters and election officials is just the next logical step for a desperate campaign without any moral compass.

I fear that even this won’t be the worst we will see. A political party that shamelessly spreads election denialism is capable of worse. A candidate that praises the Jan. 6 insurrectionists and refers to the criminally convicted as “hostages” is capable of much worse. We must be prepared.