ATLANTA – Two months have not been easy to be an election official in Georgia: Everyone from Secretary of State to county officials and polling officers have received death threats, harassment and an avalanche angry emails from legions of Donald Trump supporters who cling to the mistaken belief that they presided over a rigged election on November 3.
All the while, these officials have been preparing for another hugely important election, Tuesday’s second round of the Senate. If the reaction to Trump’s defeat – namely, the sprouting of dozens of Georgia election conspiracy theories – is any indication, a close race or victory for Democratic candidates, could land like a match in a powder keg.
“Obviously, we’re on the cutting edge,” said Baoky Vu, a Republican member of the Election Board in DeKalb County, part of the Atlanta suburb of 700,000 people. “But it’s not because of the runoff today, it’s because of what Trump has been doing for the past six weeks.”
Vu’s priority, he told the Daily Beast on Tuesday, is to ensure the safety of DeKalb County election workers. His second – like that of many election workers in Georgia – debunks the myriad of election-related conspiracy theories in the Tory media ecosystem and braces for those that will inevitably come if the decisive second round of the Senate does not turn out as intended. the Republicans.
“There are no tokens the Dominion machines, no shredding of ballot papers – it is sad and pathetic to hear these baseless accusations leveled against election officials, poll officials, elected officials of the party” , Vu said. “It’s just sad to hear these baseless lies from the president.”
President Trump brought these baseless conspiracy theories to Georgia at a rally on Monday that ultimately reiterated many of the same lies he spoke in a now infamous phone call with Secretary of State for Georgia and others. During this call, first reported by The Washington PostTrump tried to convince officials to help him steal the already concluded election. And after spreading libel after libel against members of his own party and Georgian officials, even as the insults inspired a wave of abusive threats, there was little remorse. But there has been a growing desire for retribution.
For weeks, the president spoke openly and began plotting behind closed doors to campaign against Republican and pro-Trump Georgia governor Brian Kemp if a major challenge were to arise, all because Kemp failed overthrown democracy in his own state to Trump’s satisfaction.
When Trump was briefed or privately discussed information that Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and others in the state have received death threats over false allegations that Trump and his supporters have aggressively promoted , the president reacted with contempt and insensitivity, according to two people. familiar with the subject. Trump even suggested that these grim situations were all the fault of officials such as Raffensperger.
One source said Trump brushed aside concerns about threats of violence, adding that (in this source’s paraphrase), “[Brad] shouldn’t worry about it, he should worry about being part of one of the greatest crimes in American history. The other source said the president had said in recent weeks that if “no one” likes death threats, those threats “would stop” immediately if Raffensberger “did the right thing.” (In Trump’s assessment, the “right” course of action here would be to help him rig an election the outgoing president definitely lost to his Democratic opponent in November.)
Last month, Georgia’s secretary of state told ABC News his family had received death threats and his wife had sent “sexualized text” messages. Raffensperger added that threats were also targeting staff members in his office, as well as election workers.
Some of these workers, like Gabriel Sterling, the state’s electoral systems implementer, had to get additional police protection in their homes due to the threats. Matt Mashburn, a Republican member of the Georgia State Council of Elections, told the Daily Beast in December that he had received so much hate mail that he needed a special box in the mail.
Reached by The Daily Beast on Election Day, Mashburn said the vitriol had subsided – to an extent. “I was charged with treason this week,” Mashburn said. “And I didn’t know Georgia was at war.”
But what bothers most election officials, more than personal threats, is the alarming rate at which electoral conspiracy theories have taken root among voters, undermining confidence in the state’s electoral system. On Monday, Sterling illustrated the scale of the response challenge: In a nationally televised press conference, he calmly broadcast various step-by-step lies, ranging from explaining that Trump’s ballots do not hadn’t disappeared at the remark that Raffensperger hadn’t a brother named Ron. It took him a good part of an hour.
Public servants like Mashburn often do the same kind of work in private, one-on-one with angry callers or emails. He said he has “regulars” who send him new theories or rumors almost every day – and when he takes them down, that person will come back the next day with something new from another fringe outlet.
“The people who can actually prevent fraud, real fraud – all of our time is spent responding to the nonsense and foolishness and debunked conspiracy theories, rather than the real offenses that we know are happening.” said Mashburn, who also noted that the scope of “actual offenses” is not broad enough to tip an election.
“We have the tools in Georgia to run the cleanest, most transparent, and auditable elections in state history,” he said, “and no one believes it.”
David Worley, a Democratic member of the state’s board of elections who recently found a homemade sign near his home saying he was being sentenced to jail for treason, mostly shrugged at the constant flow of theory of the plot against Georgian officials. Not that it wasn’t totally wacky: he forwarded an email to the Daily Beast from a woman in Florida, sent to all Georgia state officials, all lawmakers, all presidents county officials and all election officials.
“Are you going to continue to expose yourself to a possible prison sentence because of the anarchy of your secretary of state?” asked the woman. “What are you going to do? Some of you need to get out of your house and be honest … I’m going to give you some numbers that you can call and if you contact me I can put you in direct contact with someone in the Trump family.A post from the far-right Gateway Pundit blog was linked at the bottom.
These types of views are widely held among Republican voters in Georgia. At rallies to support Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) in the campaign’s home stretch, various speakers were applauded as they said Joe Biden could not have won the state in November. (He won it.)
Afterwards, many GOP voters don’t believe Ossoff and Warnock can win Tuesday’s fair and square race.
“I can’t believe Biden was as far away as Trump,” said Linda Stabler, a retired Carroll County resident who went to vote early last Wednesday. “If they want to cheat, they should make it realistic. Because there is no way.
Still, Worley believes Georgia will go ahead no matter what in the second round that could ignite the realm of conspiracies.
“So the same kind of thing is happening again – what does that mean?” He asked. “Unless they’re ready to engage in an armed insurgency, who cares? President Trump lost, he won’t be president … if Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win, they will be the senators. This is exactly what it is.
As for Republicans, party leaders and Trump-aligned agents feared that the constant flow of messages from the president and his lieutenants against the integrity of the Georgian electoral system and the GOP officials overseeing it risked curb the enthusiasm or participation of their voters essential to the critical races of the Senate. This week the party is set to find out whether its own leader, devoured by his own anti-democratic grievances and determination to take revenge, can be blamed for blowing those same races.
“I don’t like the situation we find ourselves in these last months, [and] I think there are ways to fix this problem without whipping the crowd into a frenzy, ”said former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), who for years was one of the most loyal media surrogates. of Trump. “But unfortunately that seems to be the way it turned out. It is unfortunate that what started as a family dispute [between the president and top Georgia Republicans] was not resolved at the kitchen table and instead spread to the streets and continued all the way. And we can’t go wrong, as Republicans, in thinking that it doesn’t hurt.
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