Oct 18, 2022 - News

Election workers in battleground states more likely to receive threats

Illustration of a traffic safety cone surrounded by various colors and ballot icons

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The FBI says battleground states that are likely to see calls for election audits and recounts — like Georgia — are more likely to see threats and harassment directed at election workers during the midterms.

What's happening: As early voting begins and Election Day draws near, counties are on guard to avoid a repeat of the 2020 election.

Catch up quick: After voting officials from the county level on up to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger reported threats and harassment from conspiracy theorists and election deniers who alleged the election was stolen.

  • Former Fulton elections employee Shaye Moss testified to the Jan. 6 oversight committee that she endured violent threats and went into hiding after she was falsely accused of conspiring to commit election fraud.

Details: As of June 2022, 11% of the more than 1,000 contact reports to the U.S. Department of Justice's task force monitoring threats to election workers met "federal criteria for further investigative action."

  • "Fifty-eight percent were in states that underwent 2020 public election disputes, recounts, and audits, such as Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin," the report says.

Yes, but: Elections officials in Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett counties who responded to Axios' request for comment said they have not seen an uptick in threats or harassment.

What they're doing: In Gwinnett, elections officials hold regular meetings with both police and the sheriff's department to coordinate security, county spokesperson Deborah Tuff tells Axios.

  • During in-person advanced voting, sheriff's deputies conduct additional surveillance to make sure elections staff who work late nights have extra protection.

If an election worker feels unsafe, Tuff says, they're instructed to contact an election official who will then work with law enforcement.

  • "At the end of the day, we want the voting process to be seamless and safe for those folks who work at the polls and those who come to the polls and vote," Tuff says.

Zoom out: The secretary of state's office has created a text system for poll workers and other elections employees to report threats or safety concerns in real-time, an agency spokesperson says.

  • A copy of the report is also sent to the agency's elections division.

Axios' John Frank contributed to this story.

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