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14 June, 2024
 
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Man jailed for threats against US Election Administrator

Wave of violence targets election community across the US

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Election officials across the United States are facing a barrage of baseless hostility as they strive to fulfill their duties, according to the head of a federal task force aimed at safeguarding the election community from violent threats.

As The Guardian reports, John Keller, who oversees the daily operations of the election threats task force based in Washington, addressed reporters on Monday, describing the surge in violent threats as an assault "on the very foundation of our democracy – our elections." He highlighted a concerning trend where election officials are being scapegoated, targeted, and attacked, characterizing it as a "new era" for the nation.

Keller's remarks come as the task force, established in June 2021, secured its 10th conviction of an individual responsible for making violent threats against an election official. Speaking after the sentencing in Phoenix, Arizona, Keller emphasized the importance of robust public scrutiny while condemning death threats as criminal acts that will face prosecution.

Monday's sentencing in a federal district court saw Joshua Russell of Bucyrus, Ohio, handed a 30-month prison term after pleading guilty to making threatening communications across state lines. Court documents revealed that Russell had left three threatening voicemails on the phone of Katie Hobbs, Arizona's current Democratic governor and former secretary of state.

Russell's voicemails accused Hobbs of election fraud and included menacing statements such as, "America’s coming for you, and you will pay with your life." He is the second individual sentenced this month for threatening Hobbs during her tenure as secretary of state.

The escalation of threats against election officials has raised concerns as the country approaches the next presidential election. Keller stressed the collaborative efforts between federal, state, and local law enforcement to address the onslaught of threats, particularly in Arizona, a critical battleground state where a significant number of threats have been concentrated.

Gary Restaino, U.S. Attorney for Arizona, underscored the dangers posed by individuals seeking to take the law into their own hands, emphasizing that "there’s no constitutional right to vigilantism." The spate of threats has led to a shortage of election officials in Arizona, with many resigning due to safety concerns for themselves and their families.

As the nation grapples with these challenges, the task force continues its efforts to ensure the integrity of the electoral process while safeguarding those responsible for its administration.

[With information sourced from The Guardian]

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