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Public officials, poll workers face threats amid election fallout

Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 7:49 AM CST
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(CNN) - As President Donald Trump’s campaign continues to contest President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, some state officials are taking the heat, including a few Republicans tasked with following the law and upholding the election results.

Some officials are receiving threats from Trump supporters.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she felt threatened by protesters outside her home Saturday night, some yelling obscenities, she says, and some armed. She said it happened while she and her 4-year-old son were finishing up decorating the house for Christmas.

The protesters wanted to reverse President Trump’s loss in Michigan, but the attacks got personal.

Benson issued a statement, saying, “There is a line crossed when gatherings are done with the primary purpose of intimidation of public officials.”

But the intimidation continues. Michigan state Rep. Cynthia Johnson was at a hearing recently where Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani presented unfounded accusations of election fraud.

On her Facebook page, Johnson posted the threatening voicemails she received after that hearing.

Michigan is one of five states where election officials or poll workers say they and their family members have faced serious threats recently as they’ve counted ballots and certified results, according to a PBS/Frontline investigation.

One of those places is in Georgia, where the lieutenant governor, a Republican, sees long-term risks.

“All of us in this position have got increased security around us and our families. And it’s not American. It’s not what democracy is all about, but it’s reality right now. So we are going to continue to do our jobs,” Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said.

One top election official in Georgia, Gabriel Sterling, couldn’t contain his anger recently when he spoke of threats that he and his colleagues have received in certifying Georgia’s win for Biden.

“Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right,” he said.

And the fallout continues from Trump campaign attorney Joe DiGenova’s recent tirade against Chris Krebs, the top U.S. cybersecurity official who was ousted by Trump after he rejected the president’s claims about voter fraud.

“That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered, taken out at dawn and shot,” DiGenova said.

He later said he was being sarcastic, that the comments were made in jest and he meant Krebs no harm.

Krebs said he’s worried about the broader fallout on election workers.

“I think it’s ultimately corrosive. I think we’re going to have a hard time recruiting election workers going forward, and if we don’t have election workers, we’re going to have a hard time doing elections,” he said.

Law enforcement experts are concerned about Trump continuing his baseless claims of fraud and doing nothing to tamp down the threats to election officials.

“The president is continuing to dispute the election results. And again his supporters are getting more and more riled up, not all of them, but many of them are. And some of those folks could very well act out something,” said Charles Ramsey, former Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. police chief.

It’s not just Trump and his supporters who are refusing to accept that Biden won the presidential election.

The Washington Post recently contacted all 249 Republican senators and house members and asked them who they thought won the election. Two hundred and twenty of them didn’t take a position on it, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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