Sep 1, 2023 - Politics & Policy

AG denounces election worker threats as DOJ charges over a dozen people

Attorney General Merrick Garland delvers a statement at the U.S. Department of Justice August 11, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers a statement at the U.S. Department of Justice in August. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday spoke out against rising threats towards election workers as the Department of Justice's specialized task force announced a ninth conviction as it seeks to combat the problem.

Driving the news: The DOJ announced Thursday that two men in two separate cases in Arizona and Georgia had pleaded guilty to threatening election officials in the respective states in separate cases, brought by the the Justice Department's Election Threats Task Force — which has now brought charges in 14 cases.

  • These include a 2.5-year prison sentence handed down on Monday to an Iowa man, who had left voicemails threatening to "hang" officials including former Attorney General of Arizona Mark Brnovich.
  • On Thursday, an Ohio man pleaded guilty to sending a death threat to an election official with the Arizona secretary of state's office and a Texas man pleaded guilty to "posting a message online threatening several Georgia public officials following the 2020 election," per the DOJ.

Zoom out: The task force has reviewed over 1,000 contacts reported as hostile or harassing by the election community and about 11% of these met the threshold for a federal criminal investigation as of Aug. 1, according to the Justice Department.

  • 58% of the total of potentially criminal threats were in seven key 2020 election battleground states that underwent "post-election lawsuits, recounts, and audits," notes the DOJ, which names them as: Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, 45% of election workers told the Brennan Center for Justice in an April poll they were concerned for the safety of other election officials and workers in future elections.

What they're saying: "A functioning democracy requires that the public servants who administer our elections are able to do their jobs without fearing for their lives," Garland said in a statement.

  • "The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute those who target election officials and election workers as part of our broader efforts to safeguard the right to vote and to defend our democracy."

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