Washington state’s new law that makes it a felony to threaten an election worker online will get its first real test during Tuesday’s midterm elections.
The law, which took effect in June and falls under the state’s cyberstalking statute, can get offenders up to five years in prison or a $10,000 fine. That’s a steep upgrade from the misdemeanor charge it used to be where they’d face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
State Sen. David Frockt told KING-TV he sought to add legal protection for workers following the 2020 election.
“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,” Mr. Frockt, a Democrat, told the station.
An election worker has already successfully pursued legal action under the law after receiving a threatening email during the state’s August primary season, according to Axios.
An email with the subject line “Lol” was sent to a Jefferson County election worker saying, “You are being … watched! Be careful … your life might depend on it. The truth will prevail,” per Axios.
The election worker had a restraining order placed on the email sender after taking the writer to court, but the county’s prosecutor’s office is still reviewing if it will file criminal charges.
“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,” Mr. Frockt told KING.
Of the over 1,000 reports that election workers made to the FBI’s Threats to Election Workers Task Force, 11% warranted further investigation, according to a June report from the agency.