June 17, 2021

The Brennan Center for Justice provides some chilling details about threats to election officials’ safety:

Al Schmidt, the Republican city commissioner of Philadelphia, might seem an unlikely lightning rod for the 2020 election. The married father of three, described by local media as a “bespectacled” bureaucrat, is one of three commissioners responsible for overseeing election-related affairs for the city. A decades-long Republican, he prided himself on bringing transparency to Philadelphia’s election processes.

Threats against Schmidt and his board of elections colleagues began before Election Day, November 3, 2020. About a week prior, someone left an ominous phone message stating that the board members were “the reason why we have the Second Amendment.” Shortly after that, police arrested two men in Philadelphia “after receiving an FBI tip that they were making threats against the Pennsylvania Convention Center,” where ballots were being counted. The men were armed with “two loaded semi-automatic Beretta pistols, one semi-automatic AR-15-style rifle, and ammunition” at the time of the arrest.

The accompanying video shows that Schmidt is hardly unique. 10 other election officials talk about threats to themselves and their families. One mentions a pipe bomb. “The bullseye was on us,” one official says.

The overall picture is less dramatic but just as dangerous to our democracy:

In several states, party leaders have censured and replaced officials who insisted on telling the truth about the security and accuracy of the election. Legislators have introduced bills that would impose criminal penalties on election officials and workers for taking steps like proactively sending mail ballot applications to voters or, under certain circumstances, purchasing advertisements about upcoming elections on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Finally, and most troublingly for the future of our democracy, state legislatures across the nation have taken steps to strip election officials of the power to run, count, and certify elections, consolidating power in their own hands over processes intended to be free of partisan or political interference.

Fortunately, Brennan has a long list of suggested solutions available for downloading. They range from the creation of an election threats task force at the U.S. Department of Justice to federal and state laws prohibiting misleading fundraising off contested elections to tabletop exercises for local election officials.

Brennan calls elections officials “the unsung heroes of the 2020 election.” They ran an election with the highest voter turnout in more than 100 years during a pandemic and under a flood of misinformation and disinformation. “If we are going to protect our democracy, we must protect them," Brennan says. "To say that the survival of our democracy depends on it is no exaggeration.”

Hear, hear.

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