Current and former election officials in the United States are expressing frustration as President Donald Trump and his allies continue to contest the results of the presidential race, particularly as violent threats against those workers increase.
Tuesday brought two strong rebukes of the president’s behaviour in the wake of his election loss. In the Washington Post, former top election security official Christopher Krebs — who Trump fired last month — detailed how he and his team ensured the Nov. 3 election “was the most secure in U.S. history.” The op-ed came a day after one of Trump’s lawyers publicly said Krebs should be shot dead.
In Georgia, the state’s voting systems implementation manager Gabriel Sterling was visibly angry as he admonished Trump and Republicans for not only undermining faith in the election, but also not condemning violent threats Sterling said he and other state election workers have faced.
“This has to stop,” he said, his voice rising and sometimes shaking.
“We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”
Sterling also directed his anger at Georgia’s two U.S. senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are both locked in tight runoff races against Democrats and have called on GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign over claims that he mishandled the election.
People have been driving in caravans past Raffensperger’s home, have come onto his property and have sent sexualized threats to his wife’s cellphone, said Sterling. Raffensperger and Sterling both have police stationed outside their homes, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said it’s investigating possible threats against officials to determine their credibility.
Sterling said his anger boiled over when he learned that a contractor with Dominion Voting Systems helping with the recent recount effort in suburban Gwinnett County received death threats, after someone shot video of him transferring a report to a county computer and falsely said the young man was manipulating election data.
“There’s a noose out there with his name on it. That’s not right,” Sterling said, adding that the contractor didn’t seek the spotlight by taking a high-profile position like Sterling or run for office like Raffensperger.
“This kid took a job. He just took a job.”
Trump last week called Raffensperger an “enemy of the people,” Sterling noted, adding, “That helped open the floodgates to this kind of crap.”
Nearly one month after Joe Biden was declared the president-elect, and as states certify their election results, Trump is refusing to concede despite allowing the transition to proceed. His lawyers and other Republicans are moving ahead with more legal challenges in battleground states as their court losses mount, with judges dismissing past lawsuits over a lack of evidence of widespread fraud.
Yet Trump along with allies like Rudy Giuliani and members of conservative media have only stepped up their baseless claims, particularly against Dominion. Giuliani and other lawyers working on Trump’s behalf have spun a wild theory claiming the Dominion voting machines were programmed to change votes in favour of a particular candidate, which has been debunked by the company and multiple independent investigations.
In his Washington Post op-ed, Krebs walked through how the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — which Trump created in 2018 to protect against foreign election interference and appointed Krebs to lead — helped states like Georgia move to vote counting machines that create paper records. Those records could then be matched to machine tabulations to confirm accuracy.
His team also worked to fix gaps in voting technology and other systems that could be vulnerable to hackers and other forms of interference.
“This point cannot be emphasized enough: The secretaries of state in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, as well (as) officials in Wisconsin, all worked overtime to ensure there was a paper trail that could be audited or recounted by hand, independent of any allegedly hacked software or hardware,” Krebs wrote, listing the battleground states that voted for Biden and have attracted Trump’s ire.
“The 2020 election was the most secure in U.S. history. This success should be celebrated by all Americans, not undermined in the service of a profoundly un-American goal.”
Krebs’s agency issued a similar statement in the wake of the election while Krebs himself routinely fought back against misinformation on social media, prompting Trump to fire him. Krebs has continued to speak out against the president’s claims and those of his supporters since his firing.
On Monday, Trump campaign lawyer and former U.S. attorney Joseph DiGenova called in to a cable show to say that Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot.” Krebs told NBC News on Tuesday that he was considering legal action over DiGenova’s “dangerous language.”
A statement from DiGenova distributed by the Trump campaign tried to portray the comments as a joke, insisting, “it was obvious that my remarks were sarcastic and made in jest.”
“I, of course, wish Mr. Krebs no harm,” he said. “This was hyperbole in a political discourse.”
Krebs wrote that he is “not going to be intimidated by these threats from telling the truth to the American people.”
Sterling in Georgia urged Trump to step up and tell his supporters not to threaten or commit acts of violence.
“Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed,” Sterling said.
Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told Reuters the president’s team is trying to make sure “that all legal votes are counted and all illegal votes are not. No one should engage in threats or violence, and if that has happened, we condemn that fully.”
Yet in response to widely circulated video of Sterling’s remarks, Trump continued to falsely insist that the election was “rigged” and called on Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp to “expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia.”
The campaigns for Republican U.S. senators Perdue and Loeffler both issued statements Tuesday evening condemning violence but also criticizing election officials.
“Like many officials, as someone who has been the subject of threats, of course Senator Loeffler condemns violence of any kind. How ridiculous to even suggest otherwise,” Loeffler campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said.
“We also condemn inaction and lack of accountability in our election system process — and won’t apologize for calling it out.”
On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press that his Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the election.
His comments came after the Trump campaign and Republicans filed multiple lawsuits in Wisconsin seeking to either disqualify thousands of ballots or overturn the state’s certification of its election results altogether.
The campaign and its allies have launched similar legal fights in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Michigan.
— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters