Late on the night of April 24, the wife of Georgia’s top election official got a chilling text message: “You and your family will be killed very slowly.”
A week earlier, Tricia Raffensperger, wife of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, had received another anonymous text: “We plan for the death of you and your family every day.”
That followed an April 5 text warning. A family member, the texter told her, was “going to have a very unfortunate incident.”
Those messages, which have not been previously reported, illustrate the continuing barrage of threats and intimidation against election officials and their families months after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s November election defeat. While reports of threats against Georgia officials emerged in the heated weeks after the voting, Reuters interviews with more than a dozen election workers and top officials – and a review of disturbing texts, voicemails and emails that they and their families received – reveal the previously hidden breadth and severity of the menacing tactics.
Trump’s relentless false claims that the vote was “rigged” against him sparked a campaign to terrorize election officials nationwide – from senior officials such as Raffensperger to the lowest-level local election workers. The intimidation has been particularly severe in Georgia, where Raffensperger and other Republican election officials refuted Trump’s stolen-election claims. The ongoing harassment could have far-reaching implications for future elections by making the already difficult task of recruiting staff and poll workers much harder, election officials say.
In an exclusive interview, Tricia Raffensperger spoke publicly for the first time about the threats of violence to her family and shared the menacing text messages with Reuters….
Some, like Raffensperger, are senior officials who publicly refused to bow to Trump’s demands to alter the election outcome. In Georgia, people went into hiding in at least three cases, including the Raffenspergers. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, told Reuters she continues to receive death threats. Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson – a Democrat who faced armed protesters outside her home in December – is also still getting threats, her spokesperson said, declining to elaborate.
But many others whose lives have been threatened were low- or mid-level workers, just doing their jobs. Trump’s incendiary rhetoric could reverberate into the 2022 midterm congressional elections and the 2024 presidential vote by making election workers targets of threatened or actual violence. Many election offices will lose critical employees with years or decades of experience, predicts David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research.
“This is deeply troubling,” Becker said.
Carlos Nelson, elections supervisor for Ware County in southeastern Georgia, shares that fear. “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.”