Election workers have gotten death threats and warnings they will be lynched, the US government says

by Ethan Kim
election worker threats

The United States government has reported a disturbing trend of death threats and warnings of lynching targeting election workers across the nation. To combat this alarming surge of violent and explicit threats against individuals responsible for the counting and protection of votes, the Justice Department has taken action by charging over a dozen individuals involved in these threats. These acts of intimidation are not limited to the periods between elections, as even typically calm intervals are now marred by an onslaught of threats directed towards government employees. Secretaries of state and experts emphasize the need for stronger measures to safeguard election workers, attributing this unsettling climate to former President Donald Trump and his associates who have baselessly propagated claims of election theft and spread unfounded conspiracy theories about election personnel.

The prospects for the upcoming 2024 election have heightened concerns about the safety of election workers. Experts advocate for more substantial interventions from the Justice Department to ensure the protection of these workers who are integral to the democratic process. In response to this pressing issue, the Justice Department established a task force in 2021, led by its public integrity section, which is responsible for investigating election-related crimes. John Keller, the second-in-command of the unit, highlighted the department’s intent to discourage threats against election workers through its prosecutions. He emphasized the gravity of the situation, underlining the serious consequences that will be meted out for such misconduct, with federal judges and courts taking a stringent stance on the matter.

Presently, there are additional cases pending, with more individuals expected to plead guilty for making threats against election workers in states such as Arizona and Georgia. The task force has already initiated 14 cases, leading to significant prison sentences in two instances. Notably, an Iowa man received a 2 1/2-year sentence for issuing threats to an Arizona election official, invoking the chilling language of “lynch” and “hang.” Likewise, a Texas man was sentenced to 3 1/2 years for suggesting a “mass shooting of poll workers and election officials,” with his messages indicating a disturbing disregard for the safety of both these individuals and their children.

Despite the legal actions taken, concerns remain as threats persist. Prominent figures’ social media posts and far-right website blog entries often trigger waves of threats directed at election workers, underscoring the extent to which misinformation can incite such dangerous behavior. While there has been an increase in awareness about the threats faced by election workers, there is a growing sentiment that more should be done, including bolstering prosecutions and enhancing protective measures.

Jena Griswold, the Colorado Secretary of State, expressed her apprehension about the worsening situation as the next presidential election approaches. She noted that these threats often follow instances of false claims about the 2020 election being stolen or other conspiracy theories propagated by influential figures. Griswold and other officials stressed the need for more effective tools and actions to ensure the safety of election workers, as the high bar for prosecution often impedes swift legal action against those making threats.

The Brennan Center for Justice’s survey findings underscore the gravity of the situation. A significant portion of election workers has experienced threats, with a notable percentage reporting that harassment has escalated. Despite this alarming data, the high legal threshold for classifying communication as a “true threat,” rather than protected free speech, poses challenges for criminal prosecution.

The establishment of the task force and its ongoing efforts coincide with a broader political landscape, where allegations of the misuse of the Justice Department for political gain have emerged. Despite this backdrop, the task force’s focus on safeguarding election workers has not been overtly targeted by political opponents. The legal proceedings against individuals involved in the Capitol riot and former President Trump’s ongoing claims of election rigging have added to the complexities of this context.

The threats against election workers have already led to significant attrition within their ranks, with experienced personnel leaving due to safety concerns. As the 2024 election approaches, this trend could impact the quality and stability of election administration, potentially jeopardizing the integrity of the democratic process itself. The dire need to address this issue is underscored by Attorney General Merrick Garland’s commitment to safeguarding the right to vote and ensuring that those who administer elections can carry out their responsibilities without fearing for their lives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about election worker threats

What is the main concern addressed in the text?

The text primarily addresses the escalating threats directed at election workers in the United States and the response from the Justice Department to mitigate this issue.

How has the Justice Department responded to the threats against election workers?

The Justice Department has taken action by charging over a dozen individuals involved in making threats against election workers. They have established a task force focused on investigating and prosecuting these threats to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.

What role do prominent figures and misinformation play in this situation?

Prominent figures’ social media posts and far-right websites’ conspiracy theories have triggered waves of threats against election workers. False claims about the 2020 election being stolen have contributed to a dangerous climate.

How do experts view the situation leading up to the 2024 elections?

Experts express concerns that the threats against election workers might intensify as the 2024 elections approach. The fear is that the situation could worsen due to the heightened political climate and the continuation of misinformation campaigns.

What challenges hinder legal action against individuals making threats?

The high legal threshold for classifying communication as a “true threat” rather than protected free speech poses challenges for swift criminal prosecution. This nuanced distinction can complicate efforts to address these threats effectively.

What impact do the threats have on election workers?

The threats have led to a significant number of experienced election workers leaving their positions due to safety concerns. This attrition could potentially impact the quality and stability of election administration, particularly in the run-up to the 2024 elections.

How does the broader political context relate to the issue?

The broader political context includes allegations of the misuse of the Justice Department for political purposes. However, the task force’s focus on protecting election workers has not been a direct target of political opponents.

What is the commitment of the Justice Department moving forward?

Attorney General Merrick Garland has pledged to continue investigations and efforts to safeguard the right to vote. The department is determined to ensure that election workers can carry out their responsibilities without fearing for their lives.

More about election worker threats

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PoliticalGeek77 September 1, 2023 - 3:45 pm

its rly sad how ppl cn get so angree & violent over elections. lik, we shud be talkin & debatin, not threatnin.

Jenny123 September 1, 2023 - 6:35 pm

oh my, this is some seriuz stuff! thretnin election workers? not kool at all, glad Justce Dept is tking actn.


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