AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – One week before the November 8th midterm election, Akron City Council has unanimously passed a new ordinance hoping to deter the harassment or intimidation of voters or election officials with mandatory jail time for offenses.
“We can’t even get people who want to work as poll workers because of the fear of attacks harassment, intimidation,” said Councilwoman Tara Mosley, a sponsor of the ordinance.
Council members are aware of reports from Fresno, California, from Denver and from Arizona where election officials reported armed individuals in tactical gear standing by one of the drop boxes.
Although they are not aware of any reported attempts to interfere with or harass voters in Summit County, Mosley says she wants to be proactive, rather than reactive, and prevent something before it ever happens.
“There is a statutory requirement. The elements that we would have to prove mirror the state code. The real distinction is the penalty, a three-day non-suspendable jail sentence” said Craig Morgan, Akron’s Chief City Prosecutor.
The sentences could accumulate in the event someone is found guilty of violating the ordinance at different precincts.
“A really bad actor that bullied and harassed multiple individuals could be convicted of separate counts, but those mandatory sentences would be run consecutively, so another deterrent to discourage people from engaging in such conduct,” Morgan told FOX 8.
“Anyone convicted multiple times of these offenses would serve their minimum three-day sentences (or longer if a judge saw fit) consecutively, with no chance of work release or other accommodations,” he concluded.
The law would apply to any assault, menacing, or telecommunications harassment, for example, if someone were to call and threaten an election official over the phone.
Mosley says the ordinance is like a House Resolution introduced by State Representative Tavia Galonski in Columbus.
That resolution reads, in part:
WHEREAS, Ceaseless false claims of voting fraud threatened
the safety of election workers before and during recent
WHEREAS, One in six local election officials nationwide
have been personally threatened because of their positions as
election officials; and
WHEREAS, One in five local election officials nationwide
have indicated that they are likely to leave their jobs before
the 2024 presidential election due to increased stress and threats in recent years
…therefore be it
RESOLVED, That we, the members of the House of
Representatives of the 134th General Assembly of the State of
Ohio, condemn the poor treatment of election workers and call
for better protections for those workers.HR 241
HR 241 awaits action from state lawmakers.
Summit County Board of Elections Deputy Director Pete Zeigler on Thursday told FOX 8 that early voting has been going smoothly but the Board is prepared to deal with any problems that might arise at any of its polling locations.
“We have teams of troubleshooters out on election day above and beyond our poll workers at the polls to help them on things like that and like I said, we are in touch with the law enforcement agencies in the county,” said Zeigler
“Those individuals who just want to go and cast their vote to do their civic duty, they should be able to go and do that in peace without someone wanting to threaten them, for whatever way they want to vote, that’s on them,” said Mosley.