A Georgia election official said during an impassioned press conference Tuesday that President Donald Trump and the state’s two U.S. senators’ attacks on voting systems have made them “complicit” in a rising tide of harassment and death threats against election workers.
In remarks that lasted about four minutes, Gabriel Sterling, the voting systems implementation manager in the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, said “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was a series of social-media threats since Monday against a “20-something” technician working for Dominion Voting Systems, which supplies Georgia’s voting equipment and has been the subject of baseless conspiracy theories promoted by Trump and his team of lawyers.
“It has all gone too far. All of it,” Sterling said.
The technician, who had been assisting local officials in the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County, began receiving threats after footage of him circulated on far-right social media on Monday.
Sterling, a former local elected official who describes himself as a conservative, and Raffensperger, a Republican elected in 2018, have also received days of harassment and threats from people urging them to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia in the Nov. 3 election, which has already undergone one automatic hand recount and is in the process of completing a machine recount as requested by the Trump campaign. Sterling also said that protesters have gathered outside Raffensperger’s house and also harassed the secretary’s wife with sexualized text messages.
But in detailing the abuse directed at the technician, Sterling’s voice rose.
“I’ve got police protection outside my house,” he said. “Fine, I took a higher-profile job. I get it. The secretary ran for office. This kid took a job.”
Sterling also called out Joe diGenova, a Trump campaign lawyer and former U.S. attorney who said that former Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency should be “taken out at dawn and shot” and “drawn and quartered” for his role in securing the 2020 election. (In an interview Tuesday with NBC News, Krebs said he is exploring legal action against diGenova.)
But Sterling saved his sharpest criticism for Trump and U.S. Senators David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are both in runoff elections to keep their seats but, just two days after Biden’s victory became apparent, made an evidence-free demand for Raffensperger’s resignation. The violent rhetoric and harassment toward election officials has only increased since then.
“Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language,” Sterling said. “Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some. This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy. And all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.”
Sterling also told Trump to accept his electoral loss and move on.
“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” he said. “If you want to run for re-election in four years, fine, do it. But everything we’re seeing right now, there’s not a path.”
Georgia is far from the only place where election officials have been the targets of harassment egged on by baseless conspiracy theories and misinformation. Statewide and local officials in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona have also reported receiving violent threats.
In his first interview since his Nov. 17 firing, with CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” Krebs praised the work that election officials do: “There are some real heroes out there. There are some real patriots,” he said.