In light of increased reports of bias crimes and recent efforts to undermine trust in elections and other democratic institutions, the Washington County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution this week denouncing bigotry, political violence and supporting the people and systems responsible for conducting elections.
The resolution notes an increase in bias crimes being reported to the Oregon Department of Justice’s Bias Response Hotline (844-924-BIAS or 844-924-2427). The Bias Hotline is dedicated to assisting victims, witnesses and other reporters of bias crimes and non-criminal bias incidents. According to a report released by Oregon’s Criminal Justice Commission, reports to the Hotline increased by 53% between 2020 and 2021, from 1,101 to 1,683. Bias crimes accounted for 28% of reports in both years. Looking at the data by county, Washington County had the second largest count of bias reports with 44 in 2021.
The resolution also identifies paramilitary and extremist activity, political violence and intimidation challenging Washington County values of inclusive democracy in Oregon.
“These groups use threats, intimidation and even violence to chill democratic practice, threaten community safety and undermine civil society,” the resolution reads.
“The Washington County Commissioners believe in an Oregon that is inclusive, and protects the right of every person to live, love, work and worship free from fear and bigotry. We are committed to working together to protect our democracy and democratic institutions.”
The resolution concludes by resolving to take a number of actions, including:
- Encouraging community members to report bias crimes by calling 844-924-BIAS or 844-924-2427 or by visiting the Oregon Department of Justice at StandAgainstHate.Oregon.gov;
- Taking actions to prevent instances of voter intimidation or political violence;
- Working with partners in the criminal justice system to enforce laws in a manner that is unbiased and prioritizes de-escalation;
- Pursuing legal options to prevent the use of firearms for intimidation at or near polling places;
- Opening lines of communication with community partners to identify emerging situations and to report voter intimidation; and
- Ensuring that voters can participate in elections safely and without the impact of intimidation.