A 64-year-old Iowa man was arrested earlier this month for threatening to kill election officials in Maricopa County, Arizona — a key county at the center of the 2020 election and subsequent state recount in which former President Donald Trump lost by approximately 10,000 votes.
“You’ll remember that you lied on the [expletive] Bible when we come to lynch your stupid lying Commie [expletive]. You’re going to die, you [expletive]. We intend to hang you. We intend to hang you “According to the Justice Department, the man allegedly said in a voicemail left for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on September 27, 2021.
It’s just one example of the increasing number of violent threats facing election workers as the Nov. 8 midterms approach. The Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies are cracking down on the escalation of violent threats as the United States prepares for another pivotal election that could tip the balance of power in Congress.
“Threats to election workers not only jeopardize the safety of the individuals involved, but also jeopardize the stability of the United States electoral process,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated earlier this month in a public service announcement. In June, Homeland Security warned that “calls for violence by domestic violent extremists” against election workers, candidates, and democratic institutions would increase as the midterm elections approached.
Since Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, the DOJ has received an increasing number of reports of threatening voicemails, online messages, and even in-person encounters.
DOJ Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr., who heads the agency’s criminal division, briefed hundreds of election officials and workers earlier this month on federal government grants available under the 2002 Help American Vote Act to improve physical security at polling places. The act authorizes an additional $75 million for security this year, up from $425 million in 2020, and additional funding from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, according to Polite.
The precautions are in response to unprecedented intimidation of election officials and workers during the 2020 presidential election, which Trump continues to falsely claim was rigged, despite the fact that numerous courts, law enforcement, and high-ranking GOP officials have found no evidence of widespread fraud.
Workers in states with pivotal outcomes in the 2020 election, most notably Georgia and Arizona, have been repeatedly targeted by extremists since Trump’s races in those states were contested and lost.
Georgia Secretary of State COO Gabriel Sterling told U.S. lawmakers in June that after transferring an election report to a county computer, one of the state’s election workers was threatened with being “hung for treason.”
In July 2021, the DOJ established an election threats task force to ensure voter safety at the polls and to investigate the rise in threatening behavior directed at election workers such as Moss. According to a DOJ official, it has held approximately 40 meetings, presentations, and trainings with the election community, state and local prosecutors, state and local law enforcement, vendors providing election administration services, and major social media companies in the last year.
According to the agency, the task force reviewed over 1,000 contacts reported by election officials as hostile or harassing. According to the task, where they could identify the offender, half of them contacted officials on more than one occasion, and about 11% of the incidents merited federal criminal investigation.
According to a March report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan policy institute, nearly one-third of local election officials are aware of at least one worker who has left their job due to safety concerns, increased threats, or intimidation. According to the report, one in every six local officials has received personal threats, with more than half of those threatened in person.
This month, the state of Georgia implemented a statewide text alert system to report incidents of violence against poll workers. The tool was developed by the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, a Republican who defied former Trump by certifying that state’s 2020 election results in favor of Joe Biden. Raffensperger said he and his family have been targeted with numerous threats since Trump lost.