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Upper Arlington passes measure to make harassing election workers a crime

The ordinance is the first of its kind in Franklin County.

UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio — After hearing about poll workers being harassed nationally and statewide, the Upper Arlington City Council passed an ordinance to make harassing an election official a crime.

The city said it's not about partisan politics, but about preserving the integrity of the election process.

Upper Arlington City Council Member John Kulewicz, said poll worker threats are a real problem. He has proposed a poll worker protection ordinance to protect election workers where he votes.

"There have been reports from other Ohio counties of poll worker harassment in the past couple of years. The president of the National Association of Secretaries of State reported two weeks ago that they are seeing an increased level of threats to election officials," said Kulewicz.

Under the ordinance, the crime of poll worker harassment would be punishable with a misdemeanor and no less than three days in jail.

You can read the ordinance here.

Harassment would be defined under the measure as communication that would threaten, harass, coerce and menace abuse an election official or poll worker in the performance of his or her duties.

10TV spoke to the commissioner of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission about the issue of election worker harassment nationally, which has grown in the aftermath of the 2020 election 

"It's a real problem and it's taking a toll on the public servants who run our elections," said Benjamin Hovland of The U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

A Brennan Center for Justice survey earlier this year found one in five poll workers was "very" or "somewhat unlikely" to continue serving through 2024.
Upper Arlington's city council believes its poll worker protection ordinance will prepare itself for what's shaping up to be a series of contentious elections.

"We do know that we have a series of intense elections coming up not just this fall in Ohio but next year there is likely to be an issue for reproductive rights on the ballot and the year after in 2024; what is obviously going to be an intense presidential election. This is not speaking to the conduct of one side or the other, this is speaking to everybody- if you are thinking of disrupting an election, don't come to Upper Arlington because we take it very seriously here," said Kulewicz.

Earlier this year, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a directive to all Board of Elections throughout the state about improving election security.

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