This bill makes a number of changes to state law relating to election officials, including the following:
- Prohibiting access to records containing personally identifiable information of election officials
- Creating a Class I felony for intentionally causing bodily harm to an election official, county, or municipal clerk serving in an official capacity
- Creating a Class I felony for using force or threatening force in order to induce or compel an election official to act contrary to their official duties under law
- Providing whistleblower protection for municipal clerks, county clerks, and election officials who witness and report election fraud or “irregularities”
Additionally, Section 11 of the bill as originally introduced created a new crime that – while intended to protect election officials – would apply to all Wisconsinites, not just election officials or public officials in general:
- Creates a Class B misdemeanor offense for “distributing by means of social media a person’s personal identifying information, with the intent to frighten, intimidate, threaten, or abuse another person or a person’s family member, without the person’s consent, if the actor knows or should know that the distribution would be likely to result in the person being subject to unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment”
- Subjects someone to a Class B forfeiture for “distributing by means of social media the person’s personal identifying information, with the intent to harass or annoy another person or a person’s family member, without the person’s consent”
The definition of “personal identifying information” for these two offenses includes an individual’s “name, address, telephone number, employer or place of employment.” In the case of an elected official, there is no distinction between a personal and a government phone number or address. As a result, Section 11 could criminalize a substantial amount of conduct protected by the First Amendment.
For example, if an individual or an advocacy organization issued a call to action featured on social media encouraging others to email, call, or show up at a public official’s office (or if anyone shared the post on social media), they could be prosecuted under the statute for intending to “annoy” that public official.