Shutterstock Katie Hobbs
In emotional testimony before a Senate committee on Tuesday, election officials from around the country said they were on the receiving end of often graphic death threats in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs described how, as poll workers continued tabulated votes two weeks after the election, "armed protesters gathered outside my home and chanted, 'Katie, come out and play. We are watching you.' "
Hobbs is a Democrat, but officials on both sides of the political aisle described how, as legal challenges to the election ramped up, supporters of former President Donald Trump left them messages saying they were being watched and their families could be harmed if they didn't swing the election to benefit him.
The stories came during a hearing of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which addressed the rhetoric of those who still have not accepted the results of the 2020 election won by now-President Joe Biden.
Al Schmidt, a Republican city commissioner on the Philadelphia Board of Elections, told the committee he received several threats, including one that said: "Tell the truth or your three kids will be fatally shot," along with the names of his children, his address, and a photo of his home.
Schmidt said other messages he received included: "Cops can't help you," "Heads on spikes," and "perhaps cuts and bullets will soon arrive at [his address.]"
"There are additional threats that my family asked me not to share today because they are so graphic and disturbing," he said, adding: "I have three little kids. My youngest is seven years old. No matter what our party affiliation, this is not okay. And let's be clear: this is domestic terrorism. The whole point is to terrorize."
Schmidt also noted that the threats were not empty, citing an instance in which two men with guns and ammunition were arrested outside a Pennsylvania convention center — where election operations were consolidated — in an attempt to intercept "counterfeit" ballots that they believed were headed to the center to be counted.
"They, like many others were lied to, and deceived and deranged by those lies," Schmidt said. "And for what? To discredit an election that wasn't even close."
Schidt added that the two men were later arrested after their involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots by a pro-Trump mob.
Some of those same rioters had attended an event outside the White House earlier on Jan. 6, where Trump himself encouraged a march on the Capitol. That event was also attended by some Republican lawmakers who have since faced intense backlash for trying to legitimize the election conspiracies.
Missouri Rep. Cori Bush called for her colleagues who wanted to overturn the vote to be expelled from Congress.
As Hobbs noted in her testimony this week, next week will mark one year since the 2020 presidential election.
"Unfortunately in Arizona and in other states, some choose to believe that the 2020 election has still not ended," she said.
The continued, baseless claims of wrongdoing come despite the fact that no election official in any part of the country has discovered evidence of widespread voter fraud and that attempts to overturn the results in court have all failed.
In Arizona, for instance, Hobbs referenced "at least nine post-election legal challenges," every one of which failed.
Shutterstock Al Schmidt
"I never expected that holding this office would result in far-right trolls threatening my children, threatening my husbands' employment at a children's hospital, or calling my office, saying I deserve to die or, 'What is she wearing today? So she'll be easy to get,' " Hobbs said.
The threats extend to public servants at all levels, Hobbs told the Senate committee, saying that county election workers have received threats nearly every day over the past year, at one point even receiving a package containing orange jumpsuits in the mail.
According to studies cited in Schmidt's testimony, nearly one in five elections officials now list "threats to their lives" as a job-related concern, saying that the threats rise in both frequency and intensity every time lies are spread about election.