Unusual levels of threats to election workers persist in 7 states

Unusual levels of threats to election workers persist in 7 states

Seven states across the country continue to see unusual levels of threats to election workers, senior FBI officials said in a briefing Monday. 

Those states are Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin — all states where the 2020 election results were questioned, officials noted. President Biden won each of those states. FBI officials are discussing how to deal with these threats as state officials in 8,800 election districts prepare for the midterm elections next month. 

Since June 2021, the FBI has received more than 1,000 tips concerning threats to election workers, according to the agency. Roughly 11% of those tips have led to FBI investigations. 

FBI officials say a majority of the threats appear through emails, on election-related websites and in phone calls, while a smaller portion of threats are made in person. 

Federal law enforcement officials continue to watch out for “foreign malign influence” campaigns by adversaries, as they have since 2016. Senior FBI officials said Russia and China remain the “prime culprits.” That said, federal investigators are not aware of any cyber campaigns targeting elections at this time. 

The country’s top election security official broke down in a recent interview as she discussed the vitriol targeting election officials. 

“It’s unnerving,” Kim Wyman, the senior election lead at the nation’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), told CBS News in her first TV interview since accepting her new role. “Threats like ‘we’re going to hang you.’ And ‘I hope somebody puts a bullet in your head.'”

CBS News cybersecurity expert and analyst and former director of the CISA Chris Krebs said threats against election workers need more attention

“We do need local law enforcement, I think to get more involved in investigating threats, protecting election workers themselves, ensuring that they’re not being doxed, or their public information or their personal contact information is being released so they can get- so they get more threats,” Krebs said on CBS News “Face the Nation” in an interview that aired Sunday. 

“So this is an area that I think Congress needs take a hard look at, are the right deterrence measures in place from criminal statutes,” Krebs continued. “And then do we have the investigation techniques? It is, you know, I personally have received a significant number of death threats and other-other threats. And some of them come in through anonymous- through anonymous means like protonmail. We do need more attention on these threats. Otherwise, we’re going to see a shortage of election workers.”

— Nicole Sganga contributed to this report 

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