Elections workers inspect mail-in ballots as h up and sorts mail-in ballots prior to tabulation at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on November 06, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Election workers in Arizona’s largest county received more than 100 intimidating messages and threats of violence during a one-month period in the lead-up to the midterm elections this year, Reuters reported Sunday.Maricopa County election officials received at least 140 such threats between July 11 and August 22, according to more than 1,600 pages of documents obtained by Reuters via public records request. The period covered in the request included the state’s contentious August 2 primary, and many of the threats appear to have been fueled by coverage from far-right blogs and pundits.
The threats to Maricopa County officials offer just a glimpse of the many threats faced by election workers all over the country this year, after two years of Republican politicians boosting the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. “You will all be executed,” said one communication to Maricopa County election officials, according to Reuters. In a reply to an August Telegram post by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk accusing Maricopa County’s Republican county recorder and his “cronies” of turning the county’s elections into a “Third World Circus,” one user reportedly responded: “Kill them.” A temporary election employee reportedly broke down in tears and effectively quit on the spot after she was photographed outside of a ballot-counting center following the August primary. And on Aug. 3, a group of people wearing tactical gear and calling themselves “First Amendment Auditors” picketed outside of the elections department’s offices and pointed cameras at employees and their license plates, Reuters reported Sunday.
“It feels very much like predatory behavior and that we are being stalked,” the county elections director wrote in an Aug. 4 email to Maricopa County officials.In another instance, the pro-Trump misinformation blog Gateway Pundit published the names and photos of an election official and a technician the blog claimed had conspired to “illegally delete elections files” in April 2021—after which both the technician and the election official received threats, Reuters reported.“We talk, shout, cry and scream for what?” one commenter on the post said. “Until we start hanging these evil doers, nothing will change.”The threats in Arizona have only continued to grow as the election has drawn closer. Armed vigilantes have posted up near ballot drop boxes during early voting claiming to monitor the boxes for illegal activity. They were encouraged by GOP Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem, a self-described Oath Keeper, QAnon-adjacent state legislator and hard-line election denier.
“We must watch all drop boxes because they do not have live cameras on them streaming to the public for people to ensure there is no fraud in the process,” Finchem tweeted.
Last week, a federal judge ordered them to stay at least 250 feet away from the boxes. Maricopa County is expected to be pivotal in several races Tuesday, including the state’s U.S. Senate race, gubernatorial election, and race for secretary of state to be Arizona’s top election official. Both Finchem and GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake have said they won’t accept the results of the election if they lose. Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.