Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. convened a virtual discussion on Monday, August 1, 2022, with a bipartisan group of about 750 election officials and workers to provide an update on the work of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force but the number of prosecutions lags far behind the volume of criminal acts reported.
The Task Force was created last July to receive and assess reports of threats against election workers but only five cases have been filed despite hundreds of documented incidents.
Last August, the head of the task force, John Keller, told a meeting of secretaries of state that the response to the surge in threats to election workers had been “inadequate.”
Since then three cases have warranted press releases from the Justice Department, one last week and two in January.
“As election workers face increased threats and intimidation, some states are trying to protect them but the federal government has dropped the ball,” said New Jersey Democrat Lisa McCormick, who has demanded more vigorous action including the prosecution of disgraced former President Donald Trump, whose lies have kindled violence aimed at the civil servants who process ballots.
Across the country, election administrators such as Natalie Adona and her co-workers are facing increasing harassment and threats of violence ahead of the next midterm election — a lasting effect of the lies told by Trump asserting that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him. (It was not, according to multiple courts and Trump’s own administration.)
A Massachusetts man was arrested Friday, July 29, 2022, in Falmouth, Massachusetts for allegedly sending a communication containing a bomb threat to an election official in the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
James W. Clark, 38, of Falmouth, is charged in Boston with one count of making a bomb threat, one count of perpetrating a bomb hoax, and one count of communicating an interstate threat.
A Texas man was arrested on Friday, January 21, 2022, in Travis County, Texas, for sending threatening election-related communications to government officials on Jan. 5, 2021.
Chad Stark, 54, of Leander, Texas, was arrested by the FBI after he allegedly posted a message to Craigslist entitled, “Georgia Patriots it’s time to kill [Official A] the Chinese agent – $10,000.” The message stated:
Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these Lawless treasonous traitors. It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment right it’s time to put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese [Official A]. Then we work our way down to [Official B] the local and federal corrupt judges. It’s our duty as American Patriots to put an end to the lives of these traitors and take back our country by force we can no longer wait on the corrupt law enforcement in the corrupt courts. If we want our country back we have to exterminate these people. One good loyal Patriot deer hunter in camo and a rifle can send a very clear message to these corrupt governors.. milita up Georgia it’s time to spill blood…. we need to pay a visit to [Official C] and her family as well and put a bullet her behind the ears. Let’s be very clear to our local law enforcement who have stood down and watch BLM antifa destroy our country and kill our citizens yet you’ll step up to stop Patriot supporters you’ll enforce face mask and you’ll close American businesses??? Remember one thing local law enforcement the key word being local….. we will find you oathbreakers and we’re going to pay your family to visit your mom your dad your brothers and sisters your children your wife… we’re going to make examples of traitors to our country… death to you and all you communist friends.
A Nevada man made his initial appearance in federal court today for allegedly making multiple threatening phone calls to an election worker in the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office.
Gjergi Luke Juncaj, aka Gjergj Juncaj, aka Gjurgi Juncaj, aka George Juncaj, 50, of Las Vegas, was arrested by the FBI in Las Vegas on Thursday, January 27, 2022.
According to court documents, on Jan. 7, 2021, Juncaj allegedly made four threatening phone calls to an employee in the Elections Division of the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. According to the employee, the threats included:
I want to thank you for such a great job you all did on stealing the election. I hope you all go to jail for treason. I hope your children get molested. You are all going to (expletive) die.
Polite thanked the election workers for continuing to prioritize this national public safety issue, for engaging directly with the task force over the past year, and stressed the importance that those lines of communication stay open ahead of election season.
He also reminded the election community of the individual points of contact they have in every FBI field office in the country.
Following Polite’s remarks, the task force shared intelligence, data, and analysis stemming from their first year of work. This included:
- The task force has reviewed over 1,000 contacts reported as hostile or harassing by the election community.
- Approximately 11% of those contacts met the threshold for a federal criminal investigation. The remaining reported contacts did not provide a predication for a federal criminal investigation. While many of the contacts were often hostile, harassing, and abusive towards election officials, they did not include a threat of unlawful violence.
- In investigations where the source of a reported contact was identified, in 50% of the matters the source contacted the victim on multiple occasions. These investigations accordingly encompassed multiple contacts. The number of individual investigations is less than 5% of the total number of reported contacts.
- The task force has charged four federal cases and joined another case that was charged prior to the establishment of the task force. There have also been multiple state prosecutions to date. The task force anticipates additional prosecutions in the near future.
- Election officials in states with close elections and postelection contests were more likely to receive threats. 58% of the total of potentially criminal threats were in states that underwent 2020 post-election lawsuits, recounts, and audits, such as Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
- The task force also briefed the election community on available funds for enhanced security for election offices, and the availability of additional resources from both academic and non-governmental organizations.
Joining Polite in the briefing was Principal Deputy Chief John Keller of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, FBI Assistant Director Luis Quesada, and FBI Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section Chief Joseph Rothrock.
There are a number of federal laws that protect election officials, as well as those helping administer elections, and the guidance document should describe these statutes.
For example, 18 U.S.C. §245 contains language that prohibits physical threats or reprisals against candidates, voters, poll watchers, and election workers.
Both 52 U.S.C. § 20511 and §10307 prohibit intimidating election workers who help voters register to vote and cast their ballots.
Similarly, 18 U.S.C. § 241 makes it illegal for two or more persons to conspire to interfere with federal voting rights and certain state voting rights.
Conspiring to threaten those who ensure a voter’s right to a fair and democratic process could certainly have a substantial impact on an American’s right to vote, though proving such conspiracies can be challenging.
Another law, 18 U.S.C. § 875, states that an individual who “transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another,” is guilty of a felony and faces up to five years imprisonment.