Election workers in seven states are experiencing unprecedented threats ahead of next month’s midterm elections ― an increase from the already heightened levels of harassment since the 2020 election.
At a briefing Monday, FBI officials told reporters workers in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin ― all states Biden won ― are being threatened.
An FBI task force formed in July 2021 to identify threats to election workers has documented more than 1,000 harassing messages, of which 11% were investigated as potential federal crimes. So far, four people have been arrested, a number election monitors say is frustratingly low.
“The reaction usually is ‘Thank you for reporting that; we’ll look into it,’ and there’s no substantive follow-up to understand what they’re doing,” Meagan Wolfe, the president of the National Association of State Election Directors, told The New York Times in June after a 42-year-old Nebraska man pleaded guilty to threatening Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.
Wolfe said the low level of repercussions lead some to “feel there isn’t adequate support that can deter people from doing this in the future.”
A March survey of local election officials conducted by the Brennan Center, a bipartisan policy center, found one in six local election officials have experienced threats ― and that more than half of those threats aren’t being reported to law enforcement.
In addition to violent external threats, election security faces threats from within.
In some states, Trump-backed Republican party leaders are encouraging members to volunteer as poll workers with the explicit aim of infiltrating and manipulating election results.
In Michigan, for instance, Wayne County GOP leaders encouraged poll workers to ignore rules and bring cell phones and pens into polling places and vote-counting centers.
And in August, witnesses say a paid elections inspector in the state placed a USB flash drive into an electronic poll book after a primary election. The man, James Holkeboer, faces two felonies for the act. He was nominated as a delegate to the state Republican convention in 2020.
That arguably pales in comparison to Arizona, where Republicans have nominated Mark Finchem, a Trump-endorsed election denier and a former member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, for secretary of state.
Finchem has told supporters that he would not have certified the 2020 election results were he in charge, and he backed the conspiratorial CyberNinjas “audit” of election results in Maricopa County, Arizona, that failed to find evidence of widespread fraud despite being explicitly designed to do so.