The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday launched a task force aimed at combating violent threats against election workers following a spike in such incidents tied to the 2020 presidential election.
The announcement comes after the DOJ last month indicated that criminal law enforcement would play a key role in the Biden administration’s push to protect voting rights and safeguard elections.
“A threat to any election official, worker, or volunteer is a threat to democracy,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who will lead the effort. “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.”
The Hill has reached out to the DOJ requesting a tally of ongoing investigations, charges filed and any convictions secured.
An April survey of local election workers for the Brennan Center for Justice found that nearly 1 in 6 respondents received threats of violence, and almost 1 in 3 said they feel unsafe because of their job.
The surge in violent threats, fueled in large part by former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE’s repeated lies about the 2020 election being stolen, has prompted growing alarm among Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates that election workers could leave their posts in droves.
“Our democracy is at stake, that’s no exaggeration,” Larry Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center, 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 DOJ in a Thursday statement said its new task force would combine efforts from multiple entities within the department, including its criminal, civil rights and national security divisions, as well as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.
In a speech last month outlining the DOJ’s election protection measures, Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy DOJ sues to block JetBlue-American Airlines partnership Texas sues Biden administration over guidance on transgender worker rights MORE said the department has “not been blind to the dramatic increase in menacing and violent threats” targeting election administrators.
“Such threats undermine our electoral process and violate a myriad of federal laws,” Garland said during the June 11 speech in Washington.