Aug 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

House report details grisly threats to election workers

Wisconsin election officials listen as procedural issues are argued during the recount of the 2020 presidential election on Nov. 20, 2020.
Wisconsin election workers during the recount of the 2020 election. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images.

A report from the House Oversight Committee offers new details into how election misinformation has hamstrung the work of election offices and spurred a deluge of violent threats against their workers.

Why it matters: The report's findings highlight the enduring effects of the still-ongoing effort by former President Trump and his allies to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election.

  • "Today's report reveals the disturbing and even violent impact of election lies on real people — including the workers we rely on to administer our elections safely and fairly," said Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Driving the news: The 21-page Democratic staff report is based on responses to an April 21 letter the panel sent to the leaders of election worker organizations in four key states: Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Texas.

  • "Election administrators informed the Committee that responding to the influx of threats and disinformation required hours of work and increased security that made it more difficult for them to do their jobs," the report says.
  • The report draws direct connections to Trump. Arizona election official Lisa Marra told the panel: "We had many people demanding to know exactly when their ballot was counted because ‘the President told them to.’"
  • It also cites complaints from officials that election laws passed in GOP-controlled states have sown further doubts about elections and posed sometimes insurmountable logistical hurdles for election workers.

Details: The report offers graphic examples of the threats sent to election workers and officials "singled out by politicians with a national platform."

  • A Texas election official had his home address leaked and received threats telling him to leave the state and that he would be hunted down. Another message said: "hang him when convicted for fraud and let his lifeless body hang in public until maggots drip out of his mouth."
  • "Perhaps most disturbing, [he got] messages threatening his children, saying, 'I think we should end your bloodline,'" Texas official Remi Garza told the panel.
  • A Florida election worker targeted by Alex Jones and Roger Stone was "was inundated with phone calls from angry conspiracy theorists from across the country."

Between the lines: These conditions have led to staffing shortages at election offices, further jeopardizing already beleaguered operations.

  • Marra told the panel: "[T]he job of an election official has changed dramatically over the years and it’s not a position that just anyone can learn in a few short months. It takes years to become an industry expert."
  • "The fact so many of us are leaving the field should concern every person across the country."

The report also shed light on the steps offices took to combat misinformation, including myth-busting websites in Ohio and Arizona; guided tours of election operations and partnerships with non-profits in Florida; and social media outreach in Texas.

  • However, these initiatives strained local resources, with the report noting that "election officials in almost every state in the country accepted private grants to help administer the 2020 election."
  • "We never know if [election assistance] funding will be put into the Federal budget. Elections and the security around them cost money," Marra said.

What's next: The report will be the focus of a virtual roundtable held by Maloney on Thursday afternoon. It offers several legislative and executive recommendations, including:

  • A federal agency to support state and local efforts to counter election misinformation.
  • Aggressive federal prosecution of threats and harassment of election workers, as well as stiffening statutory penalties for those offenses.
  • Funds for election offices for cyber and physical election security, as well as to combat threats against election workers.

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