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Prosecutors Recommend Ways To Combat Election-Related Violence

In Tuesday's midterm elections, officials warn about individuals posing threats and spreading misinformation with the intention of harming the voting process

In Arizona, election workers have faced more than 100 violent death threats leading up to mid-term elections, according to Reuters.

Reported harassment in Phoenix' Maricopa County has included menacing emails and social media posts, threats to circulate personal information online, and photographing employees arriving at work.

“You will all be executed,” one threat said. “Wire around their limbs and tied & dragged by a car,” wrote another.

The threats in Maricopa originate from claims of fake ballots, rigged voting machines, and corrupt election officials.

Chris Krebs, former director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, spoke about the election-related threats in a webinar hosted by the Washington Post.

Krebs says that people who claim that elections were stolen do it to make money and get public attention. Such election claims allow officials to push their own narratives in order to obtain online and public engagements, "It's a great clout-chasing mechanism," Krebs said.

People may share misinformation about elections rather than other issues such as border problems or inflation because they receive more recognition.

Krebs said he tries to encourage members of Congress to debunk lies and enlighten the public about how elections truly work. Doing this, he says, could increase confidence in U.S. elections.

"... if our political leaders continue to push these lies about democracy, then I think the American people, the voting base, and citizens, in general, will lose confidence, will lose faith, and that manifests in a couple different ways, including reduced turnout," Krebs said.

Separately, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm discussed a report from the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) laying out the recommendations of a bipartisan convening that focused on addressing political violence.

In a webinar hosted by APA and supported by the Joyce Foundation, Chisholm said that in response to social unrest, particularly to the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, it was important for officials to discuss the different ways that potential violence directed at government officials and institutions can occur.

Prosecutors and national experts and focused their attention on, "the threats and acts of violence that were based on political biases that are aimed at the government, institutions, and elections and that seek to disrupt our democratic processes and undermine the legitimacy of governing bodies."

Krebs focused on the harmful effects of threatened violence on voters, saying that actions based on the idea of stolen elections and fraud can result in dropbox poll watchers and "self-appointed election cops" showing up in tactical gear to dissuade voters and disrupt federal and state-level legislation.

Chisholm discussed widely publicizing avenues for the community to report acts of violence to election workers and other public service officials. Not only during elections but for moments when public servants are being targeted with political violence.

"One of the local papers actually set up an app where you can send in the waiting times and any problems that they're observing and you get real-time feedback for what's taken place at various polling locations, that's just one example of ways you can deal with it," Chisholm mentioned.

Krebs called on voters to exercise patience in following election returns. He urged verifying sources of information and avoiding social media such as TikTok .

"Look to authoritative sources of information, and those are going to be your state and local election officials," Krebs said.

Another recommendation from Chisholm was using extreme risk protection orders to have courts seize guns from people threatening to use them for political violence.

Chisholm said this recommendation would provide some level of protection for government officials who are required by law to provide their home addresses. He mentioned that it has become "normalized to find out where elected officials live and hold protests in front of their houses for any number of reasons."

These protests are very difficult to control and can potentially be joined by armed people who have no intention of maintaining peace.

Krebs shared his own firsthand experience: "I personally received a number of threats. I had people show up at my house. I received all sorts of threats. You name the platform online. I had people sending me emails. I had people using LinkedIn from their professional profiles sending me threats."

"Whether it's addressing violent crime in your jurisdiction, I think the federal authorities can play and should play a bigger role," Chriholm said. "Taking advantage of the opportunity to develop task force and work collaboratively necessarily entails developing more robust intelligence systems."


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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