In recent years election officials, staff and poll workers have been subjected to threats, accusations of crime and leaked private information (doxing) at much higher rates than usual. As a result, some states have enacted legislation to specifically protect election officials, staff and poll workers in recent years.
For decades across the nation, public officials and public servants have been protected by law from threats, intimidation and harassment. While those who administer elections are specifically mentioned among other protected public officials in Louisiana, for example, it is common that states specifically protect elected public officials. This can include election officials like county clerks, who are elected officials in many states, like Delaware, Idaho and Utah, for example. However, these laws may leave uncertainty around the protection of poll workers and other staff working in the clerk's office who are not elected.
Since 2020, 12 states have enacted laws specifically addressing protections for election officials and poll workers. How states protect these individuals varies.
- Nine states have criminalized intimidation and/or interference with election workers by establishing incarceration and fines for offenders.
- Maine requires election workers to take classes in de-escalation tactics.
- California, Oregon and Washington allow election officials to be included in the state’s address confidentiality programs. Washington also specifically addresses cyber harassment.
Election officials are professionals. They are elected, appointed, or hired to work year-round to conduct elections—though many have additional duties as well. Election officials maintain voter rolls, prepare training materials, secure voting equipment, recruit poll workers—everything necessary to prepare for elections. Some election officials have full or part-time staff that assist in these responsibilities. Top election officials may have titles like deputy secretary of state, county clerk or elections director.
For more information on election administration structures, see NCSL’s page on Election Administration at State and Local Levels.
Poll workers are the temporary staff brought on to do the hands-on work for every election. They include greeters at polling places, ballot counters, foreign language interpreters, warehouse workers, supervisors and many more specialized jobs. Poll workers are the essential staff; in some places poll workers make up 70% of election office budgets.
For more information on poll workers, see NCSL’s page on Election Poll Workers.