Home Live trainings Active shooter formations, voter shortages: How Trump’s lies changed the election forever

Active shooter formations, voter shortages: How Trump’s lies changed the election forever


Scott McDonell has served a decade now as a senior election official in Dane County, Wisconsin, home to the state capital, Madison. For most of those years, he and his colleagues toiled in relative anonymity, tending to the quiet administrative work of democracy.

Not this cycle.

Since donald trump began pushing lies that the 2020 election had been stolen from him, McDonell and public servants like him found themselves drafted into the front lines of democracy – subject to dangerous threats and navigating a new reality of active shooter formations and plexiglass barriers in the office, just in case a conspiracy theory gets out of hand. “It’s weird,” McDonell tells me. “It’s not a good sign for our democracy if I fear bomb threats or an attack on my office.”

Concerns about intimidation and potential violence grew as Election Day approached. The United States government warned in a joint intelligence bulletin last month that there was an “increased threat” to election workers and others from domestic violent extremism. “We are evaluating some [domestic violent extremists] motivated by election-related grievances would likely view infrastructure, staff and voters involved in the electoral process as attractive targets,” the bulletin said. In a speech delivered the week before Election Day, President Joe Biden said right-wing radicalism had brought the country to an “inflection point”. But these threats don’t just jeopardize election workers, especially in swing states critical to Biden’s victory in 2020. The intimidation has also jeopardized the electoral process itself.

‘Many of us thought, when we sat on the inaugural stage two weeks after the uprising…that all of that was behind us,’ says senator Amy Klobuchar. “What they haven’t accomplished with bayonets and pepper spray, they’re clearly going to try to do with voter suppression and threats etc.” The Minnesota Democrat introduced the Election Worker Protection Act earlier this fall with the Illinois senator Dick Durbin. The bill — co-sponsored by 17 colleagues, all Democratic caucus members — would provide states with resources to recruit and protect election workers. He has served on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, chaired by Klobuchar, since September.

MAGA’s harassment began in 2020, when Trump and his allies launched a relentless, multi-pronged crusade to overturn the results of an election based on conspiracy theories and false allegations of widespread voter fraud. Crowds of Trump supporters gathered outside ballot processing centers in swing states like Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan, where armed protesters also gathered outside the Democratic secretary of state’s home . Jocelyn Benson as she hung Christmas decorations with her young son. They also threatened lower-level election workers, even prompting a rebuke from some Republican officials, including Georgia’s voting system implementer. Gabriel Sterling, who warned that “someone is going to get hurt” if Trump doesn’t put a stop to lies and conspiracy theories. The Georgia Republican’s December 2020 warning was confirmed a month later, when armed Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to prevent the election from being certified.

Not only have these threats continued in the two years since the insurgency, they appear in some ways to have intensified. According to a Brennan Center poll earlier this year, one in six election workers say they have received threats because of their work, and more than three-quarters say the situation has gotten worse in recent years. In August, more than 1,000 cases of “hostile or harassing” contact against election workers were reported to the Election Threats Task Force established by the Justice Department in 2021, with about 11% of incidents triggering federal criminal investigations. ; in one of the first cases brought by the DOJ task force, a Nebraska man was sentenced in October to 18 months in prison for making online threats against the Colorado secretary of state Jena Griswold, a prominent advocate of voting rights. Such threats are “disturbing” in and of themselves, Griswold tells me. But what’s worse is how the lies and violent rhetoric are “embedded” by Trump and other Republican leaders. “They incite violence,” says Griswold. “‘The Big Lie’ has grown tremendously over the past two years,” adds Griswold. “The environment is much more of a concern.”