After the 2020 election, reports surfaced of election workers receiving threats of varying severity. The Department of Justice announced the first federal charges against someone for threatening election workers after the 2020 election.
Chad Stark from Leander, Texas, was arrested for death threats made against Georgia election officials on the day of the Georgia Senate runoff race. Stark allegedly made posts on Craigslist calling for the killing of at least 3 elections officials, including threats to at least one individual’s family.
False claims of people rigging the election led to threats of violence against election workers in several states. Launched in late June 2021, Stark’s prosecution is the first pursued by the Election Threats Taskforce. Attorney General Merrick Garland reaffirmed the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the election process and voting systems, including the people who held administer elections.
“The Justice Department has a responsibility not only to protect the right to vote but also to protect those who administer our voting systems from violence and illegal threats of violence,” Garland said. “The department’s Election Threats Task Force, working with partners across the country, will hold accountable those who violate federal law by using violence or threatening violence to target election workers fulfilling their public duties.”
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. called election workers and related staff the “backbone of our electoral system.” He highlighted the hard work of those who step up each election cycle to ensure votes are tabulated, and elections are adequately administered.
“These are ordinary people from across the political spectrum filling a vital democratic role for our nation, typically with little recognition or support,” Polite said. “During the 2020 election cycle and the events that followed, these unsung heroes came under unprecedented verbal assault for doing nothing more than their jobs. As the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General have both emphasized previously: we will not tolerate the intimidation of those who safeguard our electoral system.”
The Justice Department’s effort differs from a proposal by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to investigate alleged election crimes. CNN reported that DeSantis requested lawmakers fund the office to a tune of $5.7 million to establish an Office of Election Crimes and Security.
But there is no indication the DeSantis plan is needed to ensure proper enforcement of Florida’s election laws. And there’s little evidence of alleged fraud or other election-related crimes warranting the creation of this office.
Given his hyperpartisan approach to governance, there are also concerns the new office would be used to punish those not in his camp. According to CNN, the proposal first surfaced in the days after the November 2020 election when Trump supporters were promoting false claims of widespread fraud.