Watchdogs fear new group hyping threats to election workers as pretext to chill monitoring efforts
Committee for Safe and Secure Elections claims it brings election administration experts and officials together with law enforcement "to support policies and practices that protect election workers and voters from violence, threats, and intimidation."
Election integrity watchdogs fear a new organization of election administration experts and law enforcement officials called The Committee for Safe and Secure Elections is part of a growing effort to hype threats to election workers as a pretext to chill searching scrutiny of questionable election practices.
Established in June 2022, the CSSE "aim[s] to support policies and practices that protect election workers and voters from violence, threats, and intimidation" according to its website, while also "work[ing] to build relationships and trust between election officials and law enforcement to better equip both to prevent and respond to threats and violence against voters and election workers."
CSSE lists 34 members, including current and former election and law enforcement officials such as former Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, former Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who now works at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), three people from the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, and Matthew Masterson, director of information integrity at Microsoft, who served previously as senior cybersecurity advisor at the Department of Homeland Security and a commissioner at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
The committee is supported by the Brennan Center for Justice, R Street Institute, Protect Democracy, and The Elections Group, with people from each of the organizations serving as members.
CSSE has produced a dramatization of an election official being threatened and requesting assistance from law enforcement as a training video for law enforcement and election officials.
In an effort to "[p]romote meaningful accountability for perpetrators of threats," CSSE supports "increased dialogue between election administrators, law enforcement and policy makers about the nature of existing and potential threats, specific laws on the books for addressing them, ways to reduce public misinformation, and opportunities to improve our response to this problem."
In July, a month after CSSE was formed, three of its members joined an EAC panel discussion on election security and threats faced by election officials in which panelists recounted purported threats they have faced and highlighted CSSE's goal of helping election officials work with law enforcement in such cases.
Alongside the CSSE panel discussion on its Election Official Security webpage, EAC links to a CISA training video from October that cites a report that warned of an "increase in reports of threats to election workers as the 2022 elections approach."
Last month, Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) held a hearing "to counter the barrage of threats and harassment targeting election workers from those seeking to undermine our democracy."
Such threats are "in part fueled by disinformation that allows lies that undermine our elections to go viral," she alleged. "We must tackle the root causes of disinformation that spreads online and the impact it has on our democracy."
During the hearing, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver testified: "The rise of misinformation and election denialism since 2020 has made the job of non-partisan election administration much harder. When many members of the public are mistrustful about the integrity of our elections, election administrators then bear the associated burdens of frivolous lawsuits, excessively burdensome public information requests, disruptive voters and poll workers, and outright threats and harassment."
In September, Klobuchar introduced the Election Worker Protection Act of 2022. The Senate bill, which never made it out of the Rules Committee, reads: "It shall be unlawful for any person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, to intimidate, threaten, coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce an election worker with intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with that election worker while the election worker is engaged in the performance of official duties, or with intent to retaliate against the election worker on the basis of the performance of such duties."
The bill requires the FBI to "assign a special agent to each field office ... to investigate threats against election workers."
Ned Jones, deputy director of the Election Integrity Network, told Just the News on Friday that CSSE is helping to spread the largely illusory, politically motivated narrative that election workers are under threat from so-called election deniers and domestic terrorists.
"From Jan. 6th on, there has been this narrative about intimidation and harassment," employing charactertistic terms such as "election deniers, the Big Lie, and domestic terrorists," Jones said.
In the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election, he recalled, there were many poll observers and workers who were law-abiding and trained not to engage in confrontation, which was important as the Justice Department established its Election Threats Task Force in June 2021 and was "looking for trouble from election workers."
The Justice Department's Election Threats Task Force reported last August that it received over 1,000 reports of threats to election officials after its establishment in June 2021 but found that only about 11% "met the threshold for a federal criminal investigation" and charged just five people.
While there were "a few idiots on both sides" during the 2022 elections, it was "not what was predicted," and the ulterior agenda behind the left's narrative is to "intimidate poll workers and observers," Jones said, noting that anyone who threatens election workers should be punished since threatening anyone is already illegal.
"Too many [Freedom of Information Act]" requests "is harassment" as defined by the new narrative, as is asking questions and attending public board of supervisors meetings, he added.
If election officials were transparent, then no FOIA requests would be needed, Jones argued. He questioned "who defines harassment" and said the goal is to "intimidate people to not be involved" in elections.
CSSE has not responded to a request for comment.