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Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testifies before Senate Committee about election threats

Benson says election workers across the state have received violent threats aimed at them and their families.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding threats to election workers on Wednesday morning.

Benson was joined by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, officials from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The DOJ launched a task force to address threats to election workers last year in response to rising threats to workers in recent years.

The DOJ Election Threats Task Force says they are currently investigating a little more than 100 threats to election workers across the country.

Benson spoke for several minutes and delivered testimony that included threats to her and other Michigan election officials. This is what she said in part:

"One night in December 2020, I was about to put my son to bed when dozens of individuals descended upon our home. Growing in numbers over the course of an hour, they stood outside my front door waking my neighbors shouting obscenities and graphic threats into bullhorns. To this day, these images and this memory of that evening still haunts me. This was not the first nor was that the last time some time or group of people showed up at my home, or threatened me, my staff or many of the hundreds of local election officials in our state. As a result, there is an omnipresent feeling of anxiety and dread that permeates our daily lives and those of our families.

"Not long ago, my son standing in our driveway, picked up a stick, turned to me and said, ‘Don't worry, mom. If the bad guys come again, I'll get them with this.’ He's six years old. Some of these incidents have been reported and drawn media attention. Many have not.

"From Rochester Hills clerk Tina Barton, she received a voicemail filled with explicit language, threatening her family. Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey was sent photos of a dead body with a message to imagine that body as her daughter. 

"Other clerks beyond Michigan have told countless more stories. Local officials from political parties of both sides and during threats to their families and their staff. These threats are not limited to personal attacks. They also involve harassment and attempts to criminalize the basic work of local election officials. We are threatened with arrest for simply doing our jobs for educating citizens about their right to vote, or we are inundated with burdensome and often nonsensical, unnecessary demands for information and access to secure election equipment.

"As a result, one in three election officials report feeling unsafe on a regular basis and more than half fear for the safety of their colleagues in future elections."

The Elections Threat Task Force released a briefing about election worker threats on Monday saying that the task force has reviewed over 1,000 reports of threats and found a little over 100 to be worth an investigation. They also say that election officials in states with close elections and postelection contests were more likely to receive threats. 

Watch the full hearing here.

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