Federal funding sought to protect election officials at risk

Federal election officials are seeking expedited legal advice from the Government Accountability Office on whether funds allocated to states for election administration can be used to pay for personal security purposes.

It’s one of the measures to improve the safety of state and local election officials that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission outlined in a letter responding to a request last month from the Chair of the Rules Committee and of the administration of the Senate. Amy klobuchar (D-Minn.) And Ranking Member Roy Blunt(R-Mo.). Senators expressed concern for officials who have faced increased threats of violence since the 2020 election.

The committee asks whether funds directed to states through the Help America Vote Act of 2002 that are already used to pay for the security of election offices can also be used for the physical protection of individuals.

“HAVA election security grants have been made available to states to improve the administration of federal office elections, and physical security falls under that umbrella,” the four commissioners said in a Dec. 3 letter obtained by the Bloomberg government.

“We are awaiting a response from GAO ​​but we are ready to prepare guidelines as soon as an opinion is issued,” they added. The commission hopes to allow states to use the remaining money from funds allocated by Congress for the 2020 and 2018 elections.

Photographer: Aboubacar Kanté / Bloomberg

Federal officials are seeking guidance on allowing the use of funds allocated to election administration to pay for people’s physical security.

The commission said other steps taken include launching a website this month to serve as a central hub for officials on where to report threats and personal safety advice; a webinar and video series featuring interviews with DOJ and FBI officials about immediate concerns and best practices; and increased coordination efforts with federal law enforcement and the commission’s new Local Leadership Council.

It is the hosting of a round table on the security of the election official on Wednesday.

Dealing with threats

Threats against election officials have increased since former President Donald Trump filed baseless complaints of widespread fraud and corruption. Klobuchar and Blunt have pushed for action on this issue, although Republicans and Democrats generally remain deadlocked on other electoral matters.

The two senators last month wrote at the EAC calling for action after holding a rules committee hearing in which they heard directly from state and local officials. A witness, Al Schmidt, a Republican election official from Philadelphia, said that after Trump named him in a post-election tweet, Schmidt and his wife received messages naming their children and threatening to put their “heads on points”.

Schmidt announced last week that he was stepping down in January to lead a watchdog group. Trump responded with a press release calling him RINO (Republican in name only). Trump said Schmidt “was a disaster for the massive electoral fraud and irregularities that took place in Philadelphia, one of the most corrupt electoral venues in the United States.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad To ktrygstad@bloombergindustry.com; Bennett roth To bouillon@bgov.com

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