Oct 19, 2022 - Politics

FBI identifies Arizona as one of top states for threats against election workers

Illustration of a lock over abstract images of ballots.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The DOJ and FBI have identified Arizona as one of the top states for threats to election officials and poll workers.

Why it matters: Widespread misinformation about election fraud has already resulted in several serious threats in Arizona and danger could increase now that early voting is underway.

  • An Iowa man was arrested earlier this month for threatening to hang Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman.
  • Over the summer, a Massachusetts man was arrested for threatening to detonate a bomb in Secretary of State Katie Hobbs' "personal space."

Zoom out: In a letter to elections officials obtained by Axios, the federal law enforcement agencies said they'd reviewed more than 1,000 threats nationwide made against people involved with elections.

  • 58% of those contacts were made in states such as Arizona, Colorado and Pennsylvania, where there were audits, recounts or public disputes over the 2020 election results.

By the numbers: Almost half of people who made threats lived in different states than the election worker they targeted.

  • Threats were most commonly made via email, followed by social media posts and telephone calls. About 2% were made in person.
  • 50% of people made multiple attempts to contact election workers.

Zoom in: In a press conference earlier this month, Maricopa County elections officials said they are working with the FBI and Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center to make sure all election activities are safe.

  • Poll workers have received de-escalation training to handle upset voters.
  • County sheriff's deputies will patrol in and around the around the county’s tabulation center, where ballots are counted.
  • Deputies will be deployed throughout the county during early voting and on Election Day, but will only respond to a vote center if called.

What they're saying: "We want to make sure there's protection available but we're not going to militarize this process. We want to make sure all people in our community feel comfortable and if they want to vote on Election Day, they're going to vote on Election Day," Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates said at the press conference.

Be smart: Maricopa County elections director Scott Jarrett encouraged people to seek out accurate information about the election process and not to fall for myths and inaccuracies that have incited threats.

What's next: In the days leading up to Nov. 8, the FBI will establish a command center at its D.C. headquarters to monitor election threats.

  • It will coordinate with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and elections departments.

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