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‘Kill them’: Arizona election workers face midterm threats

'Kill them': Arizona election workers face midterm threats

Eliza Luna, a ballot designer with the Maricopa County Elections Department, counts ballots for the Arizona Presidential Preference Election at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix, Arizona

Election workers in Arizona’s most fiercely contested county faced more than 100 violent threats and intimidating communications in the run-up to Tuesday’s midterms, most of them based on election conspiracy theories promoted by former President Donald Trump and his allies.

The harassment in Maricopa County included menacing emails and social media posts, threats to circulate personal information online and photographing employees arriving at work, according to nearly 1,600 pages of documents obtained by Reuters through a public records request for security records and correspondence related to threats and harassments against election workers.

Between July 11 and Aug. 22, the county election office documented at least 140 threats and other hostile communications, the records show. “You will all be executed,” said one. “Wire around their limbs and tied & dragged by a car,” wrote another.

The documents reveal the consequences of election conspiracy theories as voters nominated candidates in August to compete in the midterms. Many of the threats in Maricopa County, which helped propel President Joe Biden to victory over Trump in 2020, cited debunked claims around fake ballots, rigged voting machines and corrupt election officials.

The threats come at a time of growing concern over the risk of political violence, highlighted by the Oct. 28 attack on Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband by a man who embraced right-wing conspiracy theories.

In Maricopa, a county of 4.5 million people that includes Phoenix, the harassment unnerved some election workers, according to previously unreported incidents documented in the emails and interviews with county officials.

A number of temporary workers quit after being accosted outside the main ballot-counting center following the Aug. 2 primary, Stephen Richer, the county recorder who helps oversee Maricopa’s elections, said in an interview. One temporary employee broke down in tears after a stranger photographed her, according to an email from Richer to county officials. The unidentified worker left work early and never returned.

On Aug. 3, strangers in tactical gear calling themselves “First Amendment Auditors” circled the elections department building, pointing cameras at employees and their vehicle license plates. The people vowed to continue the surveillance through the midterms, according to an Aug. 4 email from Scott Jarrett, Maricopa’s elections director, to county officials.

“It feels very much like predatory behavior and that we are being stalked,” wrote Jarrett.

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