Scott McDonell has been the chief election official in Dane County, Wisconsin, home of the state capital, Madison, for ten years. For most of these years he and his colleagues have worked in relative anonymity, tending to the quiet admin work of democracy.
Not this cycle.
Since donald trump Beginning to spread lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him, McDonell and officials like him found themselves drafted into the frontlines of democracy — exposed to dangerous threats and navigating a new reality of active rifleman training and plexiglass office barriers, just in case a conspiracy theory gets out of control. “It’s weird,” McDonell tells me. “It’s not a good sign for our democracy if I’m afraid of bomb threats or an attack on my office.”
Concerns about intimidation and potential violence have increased as Election Day approaches. The United States government warned in a joint intelligence bulletin last month that there was an “increased threat” to poll workers and others from domestic violent extremism. “We rate some [domestic violent extremists] motivated by election-related grievances would likely view election-related infrastructure, personnel, and voters involved in the electoral process as attractive targets,” the bulletin said. In a speech the week before Election Day, President Joe Biden said right-wing extremism had brought the country to a “tipping point.” But these threats don’t just endanger poll workers, particularly in swing states that are critical to Biden’s 2020 victory. Intimidation has also jeopardized the electoral process itself.
“A lot of us, sitting on the inaugural stage two weeks after the riot… thought it was all behind us,” Senator says Amy Klobuchar. “What they couldn’t do with bayonets and bear spray, they’re definitely going to try with voter suppression and threats and the like.” The Minnesota Democrat, along with the Illinois senator, introduced the Polling Workers Protection Act earlier this fall Dick Durbin. The bill, co-sponsored by 17 colleagues, all members of the Democratic caucus, would give states funds to recruit and protect poll workers. She has sat on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which Klobuchar chairs, since September.
MAGA harassment began in 2020 when Trump and his allies launched a relentless, multi-pronged crusade to overturn the results of an election based on conspiracy theories and false claims of widespread voter fraud. Mobs of Trump supporters gathered outside ballot-processing centers in swing states like Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan, where armed protesters also gathered outside the Democratic Secretary of State’s home Jocelyn Benson as she hung up Christmas decorations with her young son. They also threatened lower-level poll workers, even leading to a rebuke from some Republican officials, including the manager responsible for implementing Georgia’s voting system gabriel sterling, who warned that “someone will get hurt” if Trump doesn’t put an end to the lies and conspiracy theories. The Georgia Republican’s December 2020 warning was confirmed a month later when armed Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to prevent voting certification.
These threats have not only continued in the two years since the uprising, but appear to have intensified in some ways. According to a survey by the Brennan Center earlier this year, one in six poll workers say they’ve been threatened because of their work, and more than three-quarters say the situation has gotten worse in recent years. As of August, over 1,000 cases of “hostile or harassing” contacts against poll workers have been reported to the Justice Department’s 2021 Election Threats Task Force, with about 11% of the incidents prompting federal criminal investigations; In one of the first cases brought forward by the DOJ task force, a Nebraska man was sentenced to 18 months in prison in October for threatening the Colorado Secretary of State online Jena Griswold, a prominent advocate for voting rights. Such threats are in themselves “troubling,” says Griswold. But what’s worse is the way lies and violent rhetoric are being “mainstreamed” by Trump and other Republican leaders. “They incite violence,” says Griswold. “The Big Lie has grown tremendously over the past two years,” adds Griswold. “The environment is much more of a concern.”
https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/11/trump-election-lies-threats-to-election-workers Active Shooter Trainings, Poll-Worker Shortages: How Trump’s Lies Forever Changed Elections