Bill to make interfering with election workers a crime OK’d

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A legislative committee on Monday approved a bill that would make interfering with an election worker a crime — but the amended version no longer makes the crime a felony.

The Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs committee voted unanimously for the bill sponsored by Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, that strengthens election worker protections by adding threatening an election official to election law. Additionally, the secretary of state will provide town and city clerks and registrar with de-escalation training.

“Protecting Maine’s elections from interference and subversion, either through election worker intimidation or outside political interference, is paramount,” said Secretary of State Shenna Bellows.

The bill originally would’ve made the crime a Class C felony, but it was reduced to a misdemeanor in the bill approved Monday.

Another bill that clarifies the chain of custody for state ballots and voting machines after an election was approved on a 7-5 vote.

The bill aims to prevent the problems that happened in Arizona and Colorado after the 2020 election where voting machines and ballots were turned over to individuals with partisan agendas, supporters said.

“We can’t let that happen here. This measure will help us prevent those types of issues by safeguarding against interference with ballots and voting equipment,” said Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, the bill’s sponsor.