More than six months after Donald Trump became the certified loser of 2020, his lies about that loss continue to haunt state election workers across the country. A new Reuters report reveals that everyone from statewide elected officials down to local election workers and their family members continue to live under the threat of violence, and even death.
In April, for instance, the wife of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Tricia Raffensperger, received a series of death threats via text message on her cell phone.
On April 5, an anonymous texter said a family member was "going to have a very unfortunate incident.”
The following week, a texter wrote, “We plan for the death of you and your family every day.”
And on April 24, another text warned, "You and your family will be killed very slowly.”
In the early aftermath of last year's election, death threats leveled at election workers and sometimes other local officials became alarmingly common. But the new Reuters investigation demonstrates that threats and intimidation have both continued, and they haven’t necessarily been isolated to top election officials like Raffensperger or Arizona secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs.
After conducting interviews with more than a dozen election workers, Reuters reports that threats and intimidation have remained "particularly severe" in Georgia, where GOP election officials beat back incessant claims of election fraud from Trump and his supporters.
Until now, Tricia Raffensperger had not spoken out publicly about the threats she and her family received, which began almost immediately after Trump’s unexpected defeat in the state. She immediately began taking precautions.
She canceled regular weekly visits in her home with two grandchildren, ages 3 and 5 – the children of her eldest son, Brenton, who died from a drug overdose in 2018.
“I couldn’t have them come to my house anymore,” she said. “You don’t know if these people are actually going to act on this stuff.”
Intruders ultimately broke into the home of the Raffenspergers' widowed daughter-in-law. Later that evening, self-identified members of the extremist militia group the Oath Keepers were found outside the Raffenspergers’ home. At that point, the whole family went into hiding for a week in late November.
The timing also coincides with one of the most notable postelection public pleas from an elections official to put an end to the madness. As many of us recall, on Dec. 1, top Raffensperger aide Gabriel Sterling gave an extraordinary press conference in which he urged Trump and the state's GOP senators to condemn the threats. "Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed," he warned at the time.
Brad Raffensperger told Reuters that, to some extent, vitriol and threats are simply part of public service. "But my family should be left alone," he added.
In a tweet on Friday, Raffensperger added that the threats keep coming. "Real leaders need to take steps to stop it. So far they haven't," he wrote.
Like Raffensperger, Arizona's Hobbs and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson also continue to receive violent threats.
But it isn't just top elections officials and their families who have found themselves the targets of intimidation.
In Paulding County, just outside Atlanta, County Elections Cirector Deidre Holden received a threatening email just ahead of the state's January Senate runoffs. Its subject line: “F_UCKING HEAR THIS PAULDING COUNTY OR D!E.”
The anonymous email, which was received in at least 10 other counties, threatened to blow up every one of the county's polling sites. “We’ll make the Boston bombings look like child’s play,” it said, conjuring up the deadly 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon.
The entire Reuters piece is worth the read, but make no mistake: This is domestic terrorism, and at its core are the repeated lies of Trump and GOP lawmakers about a stolen election.
Trump’s cultists are using fear and intimidation to further what they have been told is a just cause: to restore Trump to power. It’s precisely the makings of a terrorist ideology.
It is also a purposeful suppression of democracy.
Carlos Nelson, elections supervisor for Ware County in southeastern Georgia, told Reuters that poll workers may simply drop out. “These are people who work for little or no money, 12 to 14 hours a day on Election Day,” Nelson said. “If we lose good poll workers, that’s when we’re going to lose democracy.”