‘You will all be executed’: Arizona poll workers endure right-wing midterm threats

"It feels very much like predatory behavior and that we are being stalked," the Maricopa elections director recently told county officials.

Election workers in a hotly contested Arizona county have endured more than 100 violent threats and intimidating messages leading up to Tuesday’s crucial midterms, most of them based on thoroughly disproven lies about Democratic voter fraud that former President Donald Trump and his allies have repeated ad nauseam for the past two years.

“The harassment in Maricopa County included menacing emails and social media posts, threats to circulate personal information online, and photographing employees arriving at work,” Reuters reported Sunday, citing nearly 1,600 pages of documents it obtained through a public records request.

The election office for the Phoenix-area county logged “at least 140 threats and other hostile communications” between July 11 and August 22, the news outlet noted.

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

As Reuters reported: “The documents reveal the consequences of election conspiracy theories as voters nominated candidates in August to compete in the midterms. Many of the threats in Maricopa County, which helped propel President Joe Biden to victory over Trump in 2020, cited debunked claims around fake ballots, rigged voting machines, and corrupt election officials.”

Information about the prevalence of poll worker intimidation over the past two and a half months was not included in the news outlet’s report.

However, an early August email from Scott Jarrett, Maricopa’s elections director, to county officials warned that a group of self-described “First Amendment Auditors” wearing tactical gear had walked around his department building on August 3—photographing workers and their vehicle license plates one day after the August 2 primary—and vowed to keep up their surveillance through the midterms.

“It feels very much like predatory behavior and that we are being stalked,” Jarrett wrote.

Just two weeks ago, armed individuals in Maricopa County extended the right-wing’s anti-democratic intimidation campaign from election workers to voters—sitting outside a ballot drop box in the town of Mesa.

According to Reuters: “Other jurisdictions nationwide have seen threats and harassment this year by the former president’s supporters and prominent Republican figures who question the legitimacy of the 2020 election, according to interviews with Republican and Democratic election officials in 10 states.

“The threats come at a time of growing concern over the risk of political violence, highlighted by the October 28 attack on Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband by a man who embraced right-wing conspiracy theories.”

Nationwide, Reuters has documented more than 1,000 intimidating messages to election officials since the 2020 race, including more than 120 that legal experts say may warrant prosecution.

“Many officials said they had hoped the harassment would wane over time after the 2020 results were confirmed,” the news outlet reported Sunday. “But the attacks have persisted, fueled in many cases by right-wing media figures and groups that continue without evidence to cast election officials as complicit in a vast conspiracy by China, Democratic officials, and voting equipment manufacturers to rob Trump of a second presidential term.”

As of September 13, over half the country—55% of the population, living in 27 states—had an election denier running to oversee their elections, according to States United Action. Election deniers are on the ballot for the November 8 midterms in 50% of gubernatorial races, 44% of races for secretary of state, and 33% of races for attorney general.

Arizona is one of the three states—the other two being Alabama and Michigan—where candidates who promote Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen are running for all three top statewide positions.

Meanwhile, as States United Action showed in a recent report, Arizona is among the 33 states in which Republican lawmakers have introduced more than 240 bills this year that would obstruct the fair administration of elections by usurping control over results; requiring partisan or unprofessional election “audits”; seizing power over election responsibilities; establishing onerous burdens for administrators; or imposing draconian criminal or other penalties.

Notably, Arizona is one of just three states—along with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—in which such legislation has been introduced across all five domains since 2021. In Arizona alone, GOP lawmakers have unveiled dozens of bills over the past two years that would allow them to subvert election results or criminalize election officials.

Nationwide, more than 55 election interference bills have been enacted or adopted since Trump launched his deadly January 6, 2021 coup attempt following his loss to Biden, including three in Arizona this year.

According to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Brennan Center for Justice, one in six election officials have experienced threats related to their job, and 77% say that they feel such threats have increased in recent years. One in five election officials plan to step down before the 2024 election, with many citing ongoing intimidation.

Michael Moore, information security officer for the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, asked the FBI for help on August 4.

“Our staff is being intimidated and threatened,” Moore wrote in an email. “We’re going to continue to find it more and more difficult to get the job done when no one wants to work for elections.”

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Kenny Stancil is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @kenny_stancil

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