State Election Officials Speak About Rising Threats: ‘This Is Domestic Terrorism’

Four secretaries of state are speaking out about the threats they receive regularly simply for doing their jobs, thanks in large part to election denialism perpetuated by Donald Trump and members of the Republican Party.

“Threats against elections officials in the United States of America is domestic terrorism. Terrorism is defined as a threat or violence for a political outcome. That’s what this is,” Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said on Meet the Press. He spoke as part of a panel of four secretaries of state who appeared on the show Sunday.

Fontes added that he and other secretaries of state are collaborating with law enforcement and the Justice Department “to really start to address these things.” He said he and his family have spoken to neighbors who can take care of their kids in case he needs to go into hiding and that he has “go bags” prepared.

“It strikes me how so much of these tactics to try to delegitimize democracy, attack election officials,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “It’s about instilling fear — instilling fear into us as professionals, in our local election officials, and instilling fear in voters.”

“It’s really scary when people show up with guns outside your home in the middle of the night and you’ve got a kid inside you’re trying to protect,” Benson added.

Many of the threats against election officials are due to Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. He has repeatedly claimed the election was “rigged,” which led many of his supporters to descend on the Capitol in a violent attack on Jan. 6 while Congress was certifying Biden’s win.

“We said a lot in our darkest moments after the 2020 election, when we were just inundated with lies and misinformation in an effort to overturn a valid and legitimate election, that the truth is on our side and that transparency is our friend,” Benson said.

Those dark moments have carried forward into 2024. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold told Rolling Stone in March that she saw a 600 percent increase in threats against her since residents sued the state to block Trump from appearing on the 2024 ballot because he incited an insurrection. The 14th Amendment bars insurrectionists from holding office. Their suit was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The point of these threats is really to terrorize and is to intimidate and to try to keep any of us and our election officials at the county level and at the precinct level from doing or not doing something that is their responsibility, which is such a core foundation of our system of government,” Pennsylvania Secretary of State Al Schmidt said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who Trump called in 2020, begging him to “find” more votes for him, was also on the panel and said his family members have received threats.

“As it relates to threats,” said Raffensperger, “really what bothered me the most is the ones against my wife and the ones against my daughter-in-law.”

Fontes said that “the perpetuation of the mis- and disinformation from government officials” poses the biggest challenge to the upcoming November elections. Fontes even created an AI version of himself in order to warn voters about how easy it is to create and distribute disinformation.


“We continue to provide good, solid elections across the United States of America,” Fontes said. “We all check our voter registration rolls to make sure only valid folks get on the voter rolls. We audit those. There are checks and balances all the way through the system to the end. And we’re going to keep providing good elections for all of our voters across the country.”

“Elections have never been more safe and secure,” Schmidt added.