Across the country, over a dozen people are facing charges from a specialized unit within the Justice Department. This unit is dealing with a rise in violent threats against election workers responsible for looking after America’s votes. This situation continues to be a problem. Here is what they are doing.
Serious Words Serious Penalties
In 2021, a task force was set up to address these concerns. It worked with the Justice Department’s public integrity section, which investigated election-related crimes.
Stop the Threats
John Keller, the deputy unit head, highlighted that the department’s prosecutions aimed to prevent threats to election workers. “We took this seriously and didn’t treat it lightly,”
Keller said. “Federal judges and the courts recognized that these actions were serious, and the penalties reflected just how serious.
Trump’s Potty Mouth
Even during quieter periods between elections, government employees received threats. Some believed this pattern was influenced by the words of ex-President Donald Trump and his followers.
Liar Liar Pants on Fire
They continually lied by claiming that the 2020 election had been stolen, and they spread conspiracy theories about election workers.
Worries grew that this situation could get worse as the 2024 election approached. This led to demands for greater protection from the Justice Department for election workers.
America’s Coming for You
On Thursday, Joshua Russell, a 44-year-old from Ohio, issued explicit threats at an employee working for the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. He was quoted as saying, “America’s coming for you, and you will pay with your life,” in a voicemail on August 2, 2022.
Later, Russell confessed to making a threatening communication across state lines.
Traitors to Our Country
In another case, Chad Christopher Stark, a middle-aged man from Texas, admitted to sending a threatening message through phone services in Georgia.
On January 5, 2021, Stark posted a message on Craigslist calling for the death of Georgia public officials, asserting that “We’re going to make examples of traitors to our country.”
The task force filed 14 more cases, resulting in two individuals receiving long prison sentences. An Iowa man received a 2 1/2-year sentence for leaving a threatening message aiming to “lynch” and “hang” an Arizona election official.
Children in Danger
Likewise, a Texan man received a three-and-a-half-year sentence for proposing a “mass shooting of poll workers and election officials.” His threats were backed up by disturbing messages promoting harm to children.
In August, someone was charged for leaving a rude voicemail for Tina Barton, a former Republican clerk in Rochester Hills, Michigan. The charges claimed that the caller threatened that “a million plus patriots will surround you when you least expect it.”
We’ll Kill You!
The caller also threatened, “We’ll kill you.” Barton hopes the charges will stop more threats from happening.
Thousands of Threats
Although many threats have been reported across the country, only a few people have been taken to court, causing demands for more action.
Quitting in Fear
A lot of election workers mentioned threats as a big reason they quit, which is worrying because it’s causing a shortage of experienced workers before the 2024 election.
News From Kid Rock
People’s responses to this news have been strong. One person said, “It’s sad how some MAGA followers believe only weird sources like Rock Radio or Kid Rock.”
Another person said, “More victims of psychopath Trump – over 2000 lives ruined and he doesn’t care.”
Not Worth It!
Dokhi Fassihian, who works at Issue One, a group that helps with election improvements, shared that about 1 in 5 election workers knew someone who left due to safety worries.
She mentioned that many are choosing to leave because they don’t think it’s worth the risk. Also, a Brennan Center for Justice survey showed that 73% of local election officials said they’re facing more harassment.
Attorney General Merrick Garland promised that the Justice Department would keep investigating to protect the right to vote.
Jobs Without Fear
He shared his concerns that Election officials should be able to do their jobs without fearing for their lives to make sure America’s democracy works well.
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