The Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a new task force on Thursday to help protect election workers against violent threats.
The DOJ will work with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), criminal, civil rights, and national security divisions within the agency to ensure that election workers and voters are protected against violence.
“A threat to any election official, worker, or volunteer is a threat to democracy,” Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General, said. “We will promptly and vigorously prosecute offenders to protect the rights of American voters, to punish those who engage in this criminal behavior, and to send the unmistakable message that such conduct will not be tolerated.”
There was an increase in violence and threats against election workers during the 2020 presidential election. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 1 in 6 election workers received threats of violence, and 1 in 3 said that they do not feel safe because of their job.
“Our democracy is at stake. That’s no exaggeration,” Larry Norden, Director for the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told The Hill. “You cannot have free and fair elections without election workers who are able to ensure nonpartisan administration, and can do so without fear.”
The task force will work with federal prosecutors and FBI field offices to investigate and prosecute alleged threats and violence against election officials, workers, and volunteers. Election officials have also urged Congress to enact new laws against harassing or intimidating their staffs while carrying out their duties.
“From election administrators to volunteers to vendors and contractors, threats against any one individual is a threat against us all,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate. “The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold our Constitution, and protecting our democratic process is paramount.”
Government officials believe that the increase in threats against election workers was incited by former President Donald Trump and his baseless claims that the election was stolen and rigged against him.