Aug 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DOJ charges man for threatening Arizona election official

Ballots are counted at the Maricopa County Election Department
Ballots are counted in Phoenix, Arizona, during the U.S. presidential election in 2020. Photo: Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Justice has charged a Missouri man for leaving a threatening voicemail on the cell phone of an election official in Arizona's Maricopa County.

Why it matters: Maricopa County has fought baseless attempts to investigate the 2020 election in the state.

  • In May 2021, the GOP-led Maricopa County Board of Supervisors called the election audit a "sham" and argued that it be called off, but the Arizona Senate's Republican President Karen Fan maintained that the recount would go forward.
  • In Aug. 2021, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich threatened to withhold state funds from Maricopa County if it didn't comply with the state Senate's partisan audit.
  • This past January, Maricopa County released a report rebutting the "faulty and inaccurate conclusions" of the audit.

The big picture: On or about May 19, 2021, Walter Lee Hoornstra, 50, allegedly left a threatening voicemail on the personal cellphone of an election official who worked in the Maricopa County Recorder's Office, according to the indictment.

  • "So I see you're for fair and competent elections, that's what it says here on your homepage for your recorder position you're trying to fly here. But you call things unhinged and insane lies when there's a forensic audit going on," the voicemail said.
  • "You need to check yourself. You need to do your [expletive] job right because other people from other states are watching your a--. You [expletive] renege on this deal or give them any more troubles, your a-- will never make it to your next little board meeting," it added.
  • Hoornstra has been charged with one count of communicating an interstate threat and one count of making a threatening telephone call.
  • The Phoenix FBI is investigating the case and, if convicted, Hoornstra could be sentenced to as many as seven years in prison.

What they're saying: "These unlawful threats of violence endanger election officials, undermine our electoral process, and threaten our democracy," assistant attorney general Kenneth Polite Jr. of the Justice Department's Criminal Division said in the press release.

  • "These public servants protect our fundamental right to vote by administering fair and free elections. Any attempts to interfere with our elections by intimidating election officials, their staffs, and volunteers with threats of violence will not be tolerated," assistant director Luis Quesada of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division said.
Go deeper