Wisconsin Department of Justice Working to Protect Fair Elections
AG Kaul Issues Reminder: Intimidating Voters and Threatening Election Workers is Illegal
MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul today shared how the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing for the upcoming election on November 8, 2022. The attorney general also issued a reminder that voter intimidation and threats to election workers are against the law.
“The Wisconsin Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that our elections are free and fair,” said Attorney General Kaul. “Anyone who unlawfully intimidates voters or threatens election officials should expect to be held accountable.”
Wisconsin DOJ is ensuring the election is secure and that voters can vote safely.
DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation staffs the Wisconsin State Intelligence Center (WSIC). WSIC facilitates intelligence and information sharing with federal, state, local, tribal, and campus law enforcement partners along with fire service, emergency management, public health, military, and private sector agencies. WSIC is prepared to identify significant threats to Wisconsin elections, including but not limited to threats against election administrators or of election interference, foreign or domestic.
Prior to and on Election Day, Wisconsin DOJ will serve as a resource to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, law enforcement, and district attorneys. Wisconsin DOJ will be communicating with law enforcement and prosecutors regarding relevant election laws.
Voter Intimidation & Threats to Election Officials
Voter intimidation is a crime. Wisconsin law prohibits anyone from using or threatening force to compel someone to vote, to keep them from voting, or to influence their voting decision. Wisconsin law also prohibits anyone from using duress or fraud to impede or prevent someone from freely exercising their right to vote.
Threatening behavior toward election officials is also a crime. Wisconsin law prohibits anyone from threatening death or bodily harm intending to cause, or creating an unreasonable and substantial risk of causing, public panic or fear, or the interruption or impairment of government operations, including the electoral process. Wisconsin law also prohibits anyone from refusing to obey a lawful order of a polling place inspector, engaging in disorderly behavior at or near a polling place, or interrupting or disturbing voting or canvassing proceedings.
The law not only prohibits individuals from taking any of these actions personally, but it also prohibits individuals from having a third party take these actions.
Unlawful intimidation can take many forms and determining if any particular action is criminal is dependent on the facts of the incident. Examples could include:
- Verbal threats of violence;
- Confronting voters or election officials while wearing military-style or official-looking uniforms;
- Brandishing or displaying firearms in an intimidating or threatening manner in or near a polling place;
- Aggressively approaching voters’ cars or writing down license plate numbers;
- Following voters to, from, or within polling places;
- Appearing to patrol or police the voting line while armed;
- Engaging in disorderly behavior in or near a polling place; or
- Preventing access to a polling place by making threats or engaging in intimidating behavior.
Additionally, it is illegal under state and federal law for private groups to conduct law enforcement or military activities.
What to do if you witness voter intimidation or threats to election workers:
If you witness or are subject to election intimidation or threats, alert an election official and call local law enforcement immediately. If you are being threatened with violence, call 911.