Posted by on September 21, 2022 1:43 pm
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DHS rejected proposal to protect election workers from harassment: Report

In this June 28, 2019, photo, the Department of Homeland Security seal is seen during a news conference in Washington. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

DHS rejected proposal to protect election workers from harassment: Report

Cami Mondeaux September 21, 12:50 PMSeptember 21, 12:56 PM Video Embed

The Department of Homeland Security turned down a multimillion-dollar plan over the summer that would’ve sought to protect election workers from harassment before November’s midterm elections, according to reports.

The department’s cybersecurity division rejected the proposal, which would have implemented protections for poll workers as they gear up for Election Day, people familiar with the plan told CNN. The proposal would have also included plans to track foreign influence activity and increase resources for reporting voting misinformation.

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However, DHS officials expressed concerns that those latter provisions couldn’t be implemented before November, shutting down the proposal altogether, according to the outlet. However, that decision not to adopt anti-harassment measures drew frustration from some within the agency as they face increased threats of violence nationwide.

One in 6 election officials has reported receiving threats due to the job, and 77% believe they have risen in recent years, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. As of March, 20% said they planned to leave their position before the 2024 presidential election, with roughly one-third noting their decision was because of political leaders who have attacked the system.

More than 1,000 poll workers have reported “hostile or harassing” incidents to the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force since 2020, with 11% being deemed threatening enough to meet the “threshold for a federal criminal investigation,” according to the agency. About 58% of those occurred in states that underwent post-election lawsuits and audits in 2020, including Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

Reports of the proposal’s rejection are the latest of several instances in which the DHS has sought to downplay its efforts to prevent election disinformation, citing fears of being cast as “partisan,” sources told CNN. Most recently, the agency last month shut down its Disinformation Governance Board after critics said the top expert on the panel was overly partisan.

“DHS got very spooked after the failed rollout of the Disinformation Governance Board, even though the message [from administration officials] was clear that we can’t back down, we can’t be bullied by the Right,” a senior US official told the outlet.

The proposal to increase protections wasn’t without its flaws. Several officials within the agency didn’t agree with all its provisions, but they largely agreed it could’ve improved their safety ahead of the midterm elections.

At one point in August, election officials in Florida and Colorado penned a letter to the DHS and its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, urging leaders to approve the portion of the proposal that would prevent people from posting election officials’ personal information on the internet, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNN.

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“I very much share your concerns about threats to our nation’s election officials,” CISA officials wrote in response on Friday, according to the outlet. “We are committed to working with you and our partners to identify mechanisms to help address this real and concerning risk.”

The agency went on to say it would continue “working side-by-side” with poll workers to ensure their safety as well as ensure election integrity.

The Washington Examiner contacted the DHS and the CISA for comment but has not received any response.

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