Kill them’: Arizona election workers face midterm threats
Election workers in Arizona’s most fiercely contested county faced more than 100 violent threats and intimidating communications in the run-up to Tuesday’s midterms, most of them based on election conspiracy theories promoted by former President Donald Trump and his allies.
The harassment in Maricopa County included menacing emails and social media posts, threats to circulate personal information online and photographing employees arriving at work, according to nearly 1,600 pages of documents obtained by Reuters through a public records request for security records and correspondence related to threats and harassments against election workers.
Between July 11 and Aug. 22, the county election office documented at least 140 threats and other hostile communications, the records show. “You will all be executed,” said one. “Wire around their limbs and tied & dragged by a car,” wrote another.
The documents reveal the consequences of election conspiracy theories as voters nominated candidates in August to compete in the midterms. Many of the threats in Maricopa County, which helped propel President Joe Biden to victory over Trump in 2020, cited debunked claims around fake ballots, rigged voting machines and corrupt election officials.
Other jurisdictions nationwide have seen threats and harassment this year by the former president’s supporters and prominent Republican figures who question the legitimacy of the 2020 election, according to interviews with Republican and Democratic election officials in 10 states.
The threats come at a time of growing concern over the risk of political violence, highlighted by the Oct. 28 attack on Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband by a man who embraced right-wing conspiracy theories.
In Maricopa, a county of 4.5 million people that includes Phoenix, the harassment unnerved some election workers, according to previously unreported incidents documented in the emails and interviews with county officials.
A number of temporary workers quit after being accosted outside the main ballot-counting center following the Aug. 2 primary, Stephen Richer, the county recorder who helps oversee Maricopa’s elections, said in an interview. One temporary employee broke down in tears after a stranger photographed her, according to an email from Richer to county officials. The unidentified worker left work early and never returned.
She wasn’t a political person, she told Richer. She just wanted a job.
On Aug. 3, strangers in tactical gear calling themselves “First Amendment Auditors” circled the elections department building, pointing cameras at employees and their vehicle license plates. The people vowed to continue the surveillance through the midterms, according to an Aug. 4 email from Scott Jarrett, Maricopa’s elections director, to county officials.
“It feels very much like predatory behavior and that we are being stalked,” wrote Jarrett.
Since the 2020 election, Reuters has documented more than 1,000 intimidating messages to election officials across the country, including more than 120 that could warrant prosecution, according to legal experts.
Many officials said they had hoped the harassment would wane over time after the 2020 results were confirmed. But the attacks have persisted, fueled in many cases by right-wing media figures and groups that continue without evidence to cast election officials as complicit in a vast conspiracy by China, Democratic officials and voting equipment manufacturers to rob Trump of a second presidential term.
In April, local election officials in Arizona participated in a drill simulating violence at a polling site in which several people were killed, according to an April 26 email from Lisa Marra, the president of the Election Officials of Arizona, which represents election administrators from the state’s 15 counties. The drill aimed to help officials prepare for Election Day violence, and left participants “understandably, disturbed” said the email to more than a dozen local election directors.
In a statement, Marra said: “This is just one other tool we can use to ensure election safety for all.”
Maricopa officials appeared at times overwhelmed by threatening posts on social media and right-wing message boards calling for workers to be executed or hung. Some messages sought officials’ home addresses, including one that promised “late night visits.” Employees were filmed arriving and leaving work, according to emails among county officials.
Source : reuters