There’s been such a spike in violent threats against election officials following the 2020 election that the Justice Department is creating a special task force to investigate and prosecute these crimes.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that the department will be launching a joint task force with staff from the DOJ’s Criminal, National Security, and Civil Rights division as well as the FBI to crack down on the spike.
“We are seeing a dramatic increase in menacing and violent threats, ranging from the highest administrators to volunteer poll workers. To address this effort to undermine our electoral process, today the Deputy Attorney General will issue a directive to all federal prosecutors and the FBI which will highlight the prevalence of these threats and instruct them to prioritize investigating these threats,” Garland said. “We will promptly prosecute any violations of federal law.”
There’s been an outbreak of threats against election workers as conspiracy theories promulgated by former President Donald Trump have taken root deep in the GOP. As Trump pushed the lie that the election was stolen from him and attacked election officials in both parties with false claims that they either actively helped rig the election against him or charges that they’re blocking investigations, death threats against those officials spiked.
That’s led to threats against both Democrats and Republicans, from prominent elected officials down to low-level poll workers and volunteers.
One of the many targets has been Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom Trump has singled out as an enemy.
Trump’s attacks have led to anonymous text message threats to Raffensperger’s wife, including “You and your family will be killed very slowly” and “We plan for the death of you and your family every day.”
But it’s not just high-profile officials. A recent survey by the Brennan Center for Justice found that one in three election officials didn’t feel safe in their jobs, and one in five listed death threats as a job-related concern.
It’s unclear exactly how widespread these threats are—and the DOJ said that one of their top priorities is centralizing information about these threats to a full sense of the scope of the problem.
“We have to identify these threats, prioritize their investigation and prioritize those prosecutions, and hold these individuals accountable,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who created the task force.