WASHINGTON — Election offices around the country are gearing up for the midterm races, and many are implementing new security measures amid a spike in reported threats and harassment against election officials and workers.
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“This is the first election cycle that I’ve heard of these threats occurring towards election officials themselves,” said Thomas Hicks, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Hicks said the threats are extending to election workers as well.
“These are not just bureaucrats out there,” said Hicks. “These are our grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, and our uncles. Our church members as well who are serving as poll workers.
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In response to the growing threat, this year the commission allowed for federal grants to be used to beef up security at election sites and to monitor threats on social media.
“It was something I didn’t want to have to do, but it’s needed,” said Hicks. “It’s really a sad place that we’re in.”
Some election officials said the spike in threats stems from the spread of false voter fraud claims in the 2020 election. Both Democrats and Republicans have been targets.
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Some county clerks in Colorado have installed bulletproof glass and extra surveillance.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, the public can now check out a live video stream of the election site thanks to new security cameras. The Maricopa County recorder, a Republican, wrote a letter to members of Congress about how he received “two death threats” in the days before the August primary.
Earlier this year, a mother and daughter from Fulton County, Georgia, who worked as poll workers in 2020, testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack about facing threats because of false claims of voter fraud.
“Wishing death upon me,” said Wandrea ArShaye Moss.
“I’ve lost my name, and I’ve lost my reputation,” said her mother, Ruby Freeman.
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Our Washington News Bureau asked Hicks if he expects this increase in threats to become the new normal for election cycles.
“I hope not,” said Hicks. “I hope that we go back to a time where election officials are not known, where they are just basically out there calling balls and strikes and just doing their jobs.”
The spike in threats against election workers has gotten the attention of the federal government’s top law enforcement agency, too. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a task force last year specifically focused on investigating threats against election workers and election officials.
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According to the DOJ, the task force has reviewed more than 1,000 cases as of August. Around 11% of those cases led to criminal investigations.
A Texas man was arrested in January on accusations of making election-related threats against Georgia government officials.
In October, a Nebraska man was sentenced to 18 months in prison for threatening the Colorado secretary of state, a Democrat, on Instagram.
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The DOJ said the suspect wrote things like, “Your security detail is far too thin and incompetent to protect you.”
We asked Hicks what he says to people who still don’t trust the election process.
“Go to the logic and accuracy testing,” said Hicks. “See what sort of things are going on. Election officials make this very public the way that the process runs and the other thing that I would say is any threat against election official is a crime and so it should be prosecuted. There should be no harassment of election officials for simply doing their jobs.”
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