National Labor Relations Board
Election reports, fy 2011.
Listed below are the NLRB FY2011 Election Reports.
A Harper dynasty and the end of the Liberals? How the 2011 election didn't change everything
The federal election a decade ago turned out to be an outlier rather than a turning point in canadian politics.
In just a few weeks, Canadian politics changed forever. Or so everyone thought.
The Liberals, once the country's "natural governing party," were reduced to a smoking ruin. The Bloc Québécois' two decades of dominance in Quebec came to an abrupt halt.
Stephen Harper finally won his majority government — a "strong, stable, national, majority Conservative government," as he liked to say — and the New Democrats shed their perennial third-party status. The NDP was now in it to win it.
But 10 years later, the federal election held on May 2, 2011 doesn't seem as earth-shattering as it once appeared.
Today, the Liberals are where they usually have been throughout their history — in government — and the Bloc, while far from dominant, is a force again in Quebec. The Conservatives seem about as far away from winning a majority as they've ever been over the past 15 years, while the NDP is nestled once more in the back corner of the House of Commons.
The reverberations of that 2011 campaign can still be felt today, however — both in the lessons that still hold true and the false conclusions that were drawn in the immediate aftermath of an exceptional election.
The story of Harper's majority and 'le bon Jack'
Even as the 2011 election campaign was underway, the players couldn't agree on how it started. For the Liberals and New Democrats, the triggering event was the Conservatives being found in contempt of Parliament and losing a confidence vote.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, argued the election became necessary because the opposition parties couldn't support the budget and were hoping to revive their doomed 2008 attempt to form a governing coalition.
The first days of the campaign made it clear which narrative won out. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff spent a lot of the early campaign answering questions (or not answering them) about whether he would try to team up with the NDP and the Bloc in a coalition.
It all went downhill from there for Ignatieff, whose public image the Conservatives had spent years successfully undermining with highly effective ads that portrayed him as an opportunistic intellectual who had spent his professional life outside the country he wanted to lead.
As Harper waged a disciplined campaign with limited media access (and limited opportunities to be knocked off-message), the NDP's Jack Layton, leader of the party since 2003, finally began to break through. An appearance on Radio-Canada's much-watched talk-show Tout le monde en parle and a strong English-language debate performance helped propel the NDP forward in the polls.
The biggest shift took place in Quebec, where the NDP began to pick up a few percentage points on a daily basis — primarily at the expense of a tired Bloc campaign under Gilles Duceppe. By the final days of the election, Layton's NDP was solidly in second place, the Liberals and Bloc were in freefall and the Conservatives were knocking on the door of a majority government.
When the votes were counted, the Conservatives had secured the majority they had failed to win in 2006 and 2008, with 40 per cent of the vote and 166 seats in a House of Commons which then sat 308. The NDP formed the Official Opposition for the first time in its history, with 31 per cent of the vote and 103 seats — an astonishing 59 of which were won in Quebec.
The Liberals were reduced to 34 seats and 19 per cent of the vote, while the Bloc fell to just four seats. It was the worst result in both party's histories and it cost Ignatieff and Duceppe both their leaderships and their own seats.
A new era in Canadian politics had dawned. Or so it seemed at the time.
A reminder that, yes, campaigns matter
The 2011 election offered a practical demonstration of the reasons why parties can't take their positions in polls for granted. The New Democrats in particular have been fond of pointing at the 2011 result to argue that bad polls or low fundraising numbers shouldn't be taken terribly seriously.
But it also showed that the electoral landscape in Canada can change very quickly — and that if you assume things will stay the way they've been for a very long time, you can get blindsided by events.
There have been a few other examples of historic and unforeseeable breakthroughs in Canadian politics since 2011. In the 2015 provincial election, the Alberta New Democrats ended the Progressive Conservatives' 44-year run in office, coming from behind in the polls during the campaign to defeat an entrenched PC government.
In 2019, the Prince Edward Island Greens made history when they formed the Official Opposition in that province.
Sights and sounds of the election
The 2011 election was also the beginning of a tumultuous time in Quebec politics. After Quebecers handed the Bloc a majority of the province's seats in six consecutive elections going back to 1993, Quebecers went en masse to the New Democrats — a party they had never supported in large numbers before.
But then Quebec voters pivoted to the Liberals in 2015. In 2019, many of them swung back to the Bloc. At the provincial level, Quebec went from a minority Parti Québécois government in 2012 to a majority Liberal government in 2014. In 2018, the Coalition Avenir Québec became the first party other than the Liberals and the PQ to govern the province since the 1960s.
Quebec is setting up to be an important battleground again in the next federal campaign.
The GTA is ground zero again
Quebec isn't the most important battleground, however. As in 2011, that title goes to the ridings in and around Toronto.
Ten years ago, the Conservatives could not have won their majority government without making significant gains in the Greater Toronto Area. About two-thirds of the seats the party picked up between the 2008 and 2011 elections were in Toronto and the surrounding suburbs. Without them, Harper would have fallen short of the 155 seats he needed.
Since 2011, the GTA has continued to be a kingmaker. Liberal gains in the 2015 federal election in the region handed them their majority. Had his party lost those seats in 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might not have been in a position to form a minority government.
As a fast-growing part of Canada, the GTA is only going to grow in importance in future federal elections. That trend didn't start in 2011, but that election did prove that the Conservatives could win big in a region that had largely spurned them for 20 years.
The Conservatives were aided, however, by the weakness of their traditional foe. Ignatieff was an unpopular leader heading into the campaign — the New Democrats were able to take advantage of that.
The election was a shot across the bow of the Liberals, signalling that if they're weak enough, the NDP can replace them. The 2018 Ontario provincial election ended up making the same point. In Western Canada, the NDP long ago replaced the Liberals as the sparring partner for the main conservative parties in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and in Alberta more recently.
Unite the left? Not necessary
But there were many aspects of the 2011 federal election that proved to be one-offs, making it look like an outlier — an exception, not a new rule.
It's impossible to know how much of an impact Layton's death a few months after the election had on the future of the NDP, or whether he would have avoided his successor Thomas Mulcair's fate in the 2015 election.
But with Layton gone and the Conservatives in office, discussion in some progressive circles turned to the need to unite the left in order to put up a common front against Harper.
A few months after the election, former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien predicted that the Liberals and NDP would eventually merge . Nathan Cullen and Joyce Murray mounted bids for the NDP and Liberal leaderships on platforms embracing intra-party co-operation. (Cullen finished third in the 2012 NDP leadership race and Joyce Murray was the runner-up in the 2013 vote that tapped Trudeau for the Liberal leadership.)
But the desire to unite the left was based on some faulty premises. One of them had to do with turnout. Low voter turnout in 2008 and 2011 benefited the Conservatives and their disproportionately older base, so a divided left seemed at the time to be a huge obstacle for the Liberals and New Democrats.
But turnout spiked in 2015 and 2019 to 68 and 67 per cent, respectively, after registering around 60 per cent in the two previous elections. Much of that increased participation benefited the Liberals.
History doesn't always repeat itself but it has been a pretty reliable guide. The Liberals were able to win in 2015 and 2019 despite a divided left. They also managed wins in 1965, 1968, 1972 and 1980 when the NDP was putting up above-average results.
On top of that, the notion of an unbeatable Conservative Party ran contrary to Canada's political history. Not since the death of John A. Macdonald have the Conservatives enjoyed more than 10 consecutive years in government.
Reports of a party's death greatly exaggerated
Immediately after the 2011 election, however, the trend lines appeared to be going in the right direction for the Conservatives and the wrong direction for the Liberals. The Liberals had lost seats and votes in four consecutive elections as the Conservatives gained.
But the sample size offered by a few elections led to some premature political obituaries, based on the assumption that the Conservatives would remain strong, the NDP had finally arrived and that the Liberals and Bloc would be consigned to the dustbin of history.
There were reasons to believe at the time that 2011 marked the moment " when the gods changed " — the beginning of the end for the Liberal Party.
Ignatieff had become only the third Liberal leader — after Edward Blake in the 19th century and Stéphane Dion more recently — to fail to become prime minister. Western democracies were increasingly being polarized between left and right and in the United Kingdom — the "mother of all Parliaments" — the Liberals had been replaced by the Labour Party decades earlier.
With support for independence waning, the Bloc also seemed like an anachronism whose time had run out — if one ignored the fact that Quebec has a long history of distinct parties at the federal level.
The 2011 election hasn't turned out to be the kind of political re-alignment some predicted. The demographic changes that were supposed to make the Conservatives the 21st century's "natural governing party" haven't benefited them — because the Liberals adapted to those changes, as all successful parties do.
The potential for Quebec's social democratic traditions to form the foundation of a future NDP government, meanwhile, collided with an inconvenient fact: those Québecois social democrats also tend to be Quebec nationalists , aligning them with an ideology which the 2015 election suggested was incompatible with the NDP's position on issues like identity.
An abnormal electoral map
Many of the conclusions drawn from the 2011 election were based on what was a very unusual electoral map — one that upended the normal dynamics of Canadian elections.
For example, the Conservatives were able to win a majority government with very little representation from Quebec. The party elected just five Quebec MPs and would have secured enough seats in the rest of the country for a majority government without a single one of them — suggesting that the province need not form an important part of the party's electoral strategy going forward.
But the Conservatives have won majority governments without significant delegations from Quebec on just two occasions . The election in 1917 — when the country was fiercely divided between English and French Canada over conscription — was the first. The 2011 election was the second. Exceptional circumstances are rarely the foundation of a winning strategy.
The split between the Liberals and the NDP was particularly exceptional. In Quebec, the NDP was benefiting largely from lost Bloc votes, but in the rest of the country the swing was mostly between the Liberals and NDP.
But it wasn't a big enough swing. Outside of Quebec, the NDP still finished nearly 20 points behind the Conservatives and won 44 seats, only one more than Ed Broadbent had won in 1988 on a smaller map — the party's best performance prior to 2011.
This meant that in much of the country, the Conservatives were not up against the Liberals in their traditional two-way fights. Increases in support for the NDP at the Liberals' expense boosted the NDP in ridings across the country, but that boost tended to start from a very low floor.
Often, the result was the Liberals falling far enough to lose seats to the Conservatives, but not far enough to put the NDP in a position to win them instead. In the Greater Toronto Area, this shift in votes won the Conservatives many seats. Without it, they would not have gotten their majority government.
What's left of 2011 in 2021
While the 2011 election didn't produce a lasting political re-alignment, some echoes of that campaign can still be heard today.
Quebec remains a more multi-coloured battleground than it was prior to 2011 and the NDP has secured a toehold there — Alexandre Boulerice's seat of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie — that survived the receding of the "orange wave".
The GTA is still where the makeup of the federal government is decided. Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer's inability to break back into the region doomed his leadership. With the Conservatives still trailing the Liberals by double-digits in the polls in Ontario , it could very well doom Erin O'Toole's leadership as well.
But the most important takeaway might be the lesson the Liberals learned from their near-death experience. They're not the first political party to suffer a series of crushing defeats before realizing they need a fundamental change in their approach.
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And they won't be the last. Since that one majority government victory under Harper in 2011, the Conservatives have failed twice to repeat it. Languishing in the polls at or below their historical floor of around 30 per cent, the party could be on track to fail a third time.
If so, the parallels between the 2011 election and a potential 2021 campaign might not be about what happened 10 years ago, but what happened next.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Politics and polls
Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.
- Read more CBCnews.ca columns from Éric Grenier
- Follow Éric on Twitter at @EricGrenierCBC
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‘Fight club with a dress code’: Mass exodus of retirement announcements rock Congress
After a new report reveals November saw the highest number of congressional retirement announcements since 2011, Sirius XM’s Dean Obeidallah and Molly Jong-Fast of Vanity Fair join Charles Coleman Jr. to discuss the “mass exodus” of lawmakers announcing they will not seek re-election in Congress, and the continual chaos and infighting that shaped their decisions. They also discuss Rep. Dean Phillips' misguided political strategy after he recently announced his decision to retire and run against Biden in 2024.
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As pet owners turn to mobile insurance apps, Lassie raises $25M Series B led by Balderton
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Amazon announces three new serverless offerings to kick off re:Invent
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In Russia Election Results, Online Votes Sweep Putin Opponents Aside
The official tally gave a strong parliamentary majority to President Vladimir V. Putin’s United Russia party. Opposition leaders cried foul, pointing to earlier signs of gains for their own candidates.
By Anton Troianovski
MOSCOW — Russia’s governing party has retained a two-thirds majority in the lower house of Parliament and claimed a sweeping victory in opposition-minded Moscow — a stark display of Kremlin power as the authorities on Monday announced the results of a nationwide election that opposition leaders denounced as blatantly falsified.
Partial results released after the polls closed on Sunday evening had shown significant gains by opposition parties and potential victories by several candidates supported by the imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny . But by the time Russia’s Central Election Commission revealed a nearly full count on Monday, those gains were largely gone — prompting anger from Kremlin critics, claims of large-scale fraud and a small protest in central Moscow.
Russian elections are not free and fair , and the country’s best-known opposition figures were barred from the ballot, jailed or exiled in the months before a three-day vote that ended on Sunday. But Mr. Navalny’s allies had hoped to use a coordinated protest vote in the election to deliver a rebuke to President Vladimir V. Putin.
The focal point of the opposition’s anger on Monday was Moscow, the Russian capital, a stronghold of anti-Kremlin sentiment where the government had urged voters to cast their ballots online. Challengers to the governing party, United Russia, led in several electoral districts before the results of online voting were tabulated, with a delay. Soon after, the election commission declared the pro-Kremlin candidate the victor in each of those districts.
As a result, United Russia swept to a dominant performance and kept its two-thirds “supermajority” in the lower house of Parliament, the Duma — all despite recording approval ratings below 30 percent in recent polls published by state-run research groups. The party received 50 percent of the vote with 52 percent turnout, and it won 198 of the 225 seats apportioned in direct, single-district elections.
“We’ve never had a voting process that we didn’t know anything about,” Roman Udot, a co-head of Golos, an independent election monitoring group, said of Moscow’s online voting system. “There’s some kind of big, big skeleton in the closet here.”
An official in the Moscow city government explained the delay in the tabulation of online votes by pointing to a “decoding” process that took “considerably longer than we had expected,” the Interfax news agency reported. Kremlin critics had warned for weeks that online voting could open up new avenues for fraud, since the tabulation process was even less transparent than the counting of paper ballots.
Mr. Navalny said in a social media message from prison that the delay in releasing online voting results had allowed “the deft little hands” of United Russia officials to “fake the results to the exact opposite.” The Communist Party, which came in second nationwide and in several of the disputed district-level races in the capital, said it would not recognize the online voting results in Moscow.
But it was not clear what, if anything, critics of the outcome could do about the situation. The judiciary is under the thumb of the Kremlin, while prominent opposition figures are exiled or behind bars. Street protests are increasingly punished by jail terms.
In all, the outcome further demonstrated Mr. Putin’s strengthening lock on political life — and served, perhaps, as a dress rehearsal for the presidential election of 2024, in which he could seek a fifth term.
“For the president, the main thing was and remains the competitiveness, openness and honesty of the elections,” Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters on Monday. “We, of course, assess the electoral process very, very positively.”
In Pushkin Square in central Moscow on a cold and blustery evening, the police allowed a gathering of a few hundred people protesting the election results to proceed. There were chants of “Russia without Putin!” and “Shame!” and promises of further gatherings in the coming days. But it was a far cry from the thousands who rallied for Mr. Navalny last winter — or the tens of thousands who took to the streets to condemn fraud in the parliamentary elections of 2011.
“Many people aren’t going to come together, not like in 2011,” said one protester, Aleksandr Gorelov, 51. “People got scared.”
He brought a small sign to the rally: “Thank you for coming.”
Leonid Volkov, a top aide to Mr. Navalny who has been trying to coordinate opposition votes from exile, stopped short of urging people out into the streets but said that he and his colleagues would support “any peaceful protest actions” that could help overturn the results.
“The Kremlin took this step because it was certain it could get away with it,” Mr. Volkov said in a post on the messaging app Telegram. “Putin decided that he need not be afraid of the street. Whether or not he’s right — we’ll find out.”
Several analysts, however, said they did not expect major protests — both because of the increased risk of arrest and because many Russians prefer Mr. Putin, however imperfect, to the instability that they fear could follow . Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said a further crackdown on dissent could be looming.
Last week, the Kremlin successfully coerced Apple and Google into removing an app designed by Mr. Navalny’s team from their stores in Russia, showing the government’s ability to limit free speech online without blocking popular platforms entirely.
“After the elections,” Ms. Stanovaya said, “the repressions could even accelerate.”
Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting.
Anton Troianovski is the Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times. He was previously Moscow bureau chief of The Washington Post and spent nine years with The Wall Street Journal in Berlin and New York. More about Anton Troianovski
Nigeria: final report - general elections april 2011, attachments.
- Download Report (PDF | 2.19 MB | Final Report)
European Union Election Observation Mission: 2011 General Elections - foundation for further democratic development
ABUJA, 31 May 2011 - “The legal framework, the general performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC and of other stakeholders provided for the 2011 General Elections an overall democratic foundation for further democratic development in accordance with international principles and with international instruments ratified by the Federal Republic of Nigeria” said the Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), Alojz Peterle, during the presentation of the Missionʼs Final Report in Abuja on Tuesday.
“Hence, overall the 2011 elections marked an important improvement compared to all polls observed previously by the European Union in Nigeria. However, short comings were noticed and elements identified which need to be enhanced”, added Peterle. In total the EU EOM has presented 50 recommendations to further improve the Legal Framework, Election Administration, Voter Registration, Political Parties, Voter Education, the Media, Human Rights, Women Participation in the Electoral Process, Petition and Appeals, Polling and Collation, and Follow-up and Public Support.
“Positively the EU EOM noted that Nigeria has implemented several recommendations suggested by the 2007 EU EOM and the 2008 Electoral Reform Committeeʼs (ERC) report. The Constitution as well as relevant laws were amended and issues addressed that had affected the quality and credibility of the 2007 General Elections. Regrettably, the amendments failed to introduce some of the ERCʼs recommendations, such as the independent appointment of the Chair of INEC and the Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC), the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission, a Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission, and provisions for independent candidates to run for office. It is recommended that these issues are addressed in future reforms of the legislative framework”, said Peterle.
“Although INEC considered a credible voter register crucial to building elector confidence and to delivering transparent and genuine elections, the administration admitted widespread problems with this key document”, stated the Chief Observer. Peterle: “For example the high number of underage registered voters was a phenomenon that became clearly visible during the election days, particularly in the northern areas of Nigeria. There is no doubt that some communities made certain to include non-eligible citizens on the roll, contrary to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and INEC instructions. Furthermore, in many instances National Youth Service Corps members conducting the registration exercise were put under pressure to allow the inclusion of underage registrants. INECʼs Chairman repeated calls for traditional leaders to help curb this problem were to no avail.”
“In general, the EU EOM noted inconsistent application of regulations and procedures by INEC structures in the field, contrary to INEC instructions. Examples include the inadequate display of result sheets at all levels and simultaneous accreditation and voting in numerous polling units throughout the country on all election days. This confirmed a lack of control by INEC Headquarters in their efforts to implement electoral procedures consistently and could be improved by timely, adequate training and coherent effective communication by INEC Headquarters”, said the Chief Observer.
Addressing the high number of rejected votes the Chief Observer noted the few public outreach activities to educate voters. “Deficits were observed especially in rural areas and in regard of groups which might be least likely to participate such as first time voters, minority groups and women. An extensive and timely voter education campaign is needed for future elections.” “While the EU EOM observed that 40 percent of the staff and 36 percent of the presiding officers were female, the proportion of women was substantially lower among collation officers. Women are consistently under-represented in the legislature and within the leadership structure. So far, no woman has been elected as Governor in Nigeria. The expressed commitment by the government to implement the National Gender Policy which provides for a minimum of 35 percent representation of women at all levels of political participation, is positive and should be further strengthened”, said Peterle. “The role of Civil Society Organisations, which played an important role in promoting the rule of law, the adherence to election regulations and encouragement of an overall orderly and transparent electoral process must be considered positive”, added the Chief Observer. “Although the elections days were generally peaceful, the violence in the North and Middle-Belt following the presidential polls must be condemned and all perpetrators must be brought to justice”, emphasized Peterle.
Note to Editors:
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) was deployed in Nigeria from 1 March to 21 May 2011 following an invitation of INEC. The EU EOM was led by Chief Observer Alojz Peterle, a Member of the European Parliament and comprised 141 observers who were deployed to all the States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The observers originated from the 27 EU Member States, as well as from Norway and Switzerland. The EU EOM observed the entire electoral process and in its findings was independent from any EU institutions or Member State. The Mission abided by the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct, as well as Nigerian law.
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U.S. election workers get little help from law enforcement as terror threats mount
Former President Donald Trump's false claims of widespread election fraud have sparked threats of violence to election administrators nationwide, who complain that no one has been held accountable. Here, a pro-Trump crowd rallies on November 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Reuters identified more than 100 threats of death or violence made to U.S. election workers and officials, part of an unprecedented campaign of intimidation inspired by Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. The response so far: only four known arrests and no convictions.
By LINDA SO and JASON SZEP in CARSON CITY, NEVADA
Filed Sept. 8, 2021, 10 a.m. GMT
Note: This story contains offensive language
The death threats brought Staci McElyea to tears. The caller said that McElyea and other workers in the Nevada Secretary of State’s office were “going to f------ die.” She documented the threats and alerted police, who identified and interviewed the caller. But in the end, detectives said there was nothing they could do – that the man had committed no crime.
The first call came at 8:07 a.m. on Jan. 7, hours after Congress certified Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the November 2020 presidential vote. The caller accused McElyea of “stealing” the election, echoing Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. “I hope you all go to jail for treason. I hope your children get molested. You’re all going to f------ die,” he told her.
He called back three times over the next 15 minutes, each time telling her she was “going to die.”
McElyea, 53, a former U.S. Marine, called the Nevada Capitol Patrol and sent the state police agency a transcript of the calls, according to emails Reuters obtained through a public-records request. An officer contacted the man – who police would later identify as Gjurgi Juncaj of Las Vegas – and reported back to McElyea that their inquiry “might have pissed him off even further,” the emails showed.
“I hope you all go to jail for treason. I hope your children get molested. You’re all going to f------ die.” Threat to Nevada election workers
A week later, state police concluded that Juncaj’s threats were not criminal, characterizing them as “protected” political speech, according to a summary of the case. Juncaj was never arrested or charged. Asked about the calls, Juncaj told Reuters he didn’t believe he had done anything wrong. “Like I explained to the police, I didn’t threaten anybody,” he said.
The case illustrates the glaring gaps in the protection that U.S. law enforcement provides the administrators of American democracy amid a sustained campaign of intimidation against election officials and staff. The unprecedented torrent of terroristic threats began in the weeks before the November election, as Trump was predicting widespread voter fraud, and continues today as the former president carries on with false claims that he was cheated out of victory.
In an investigation that identified hundreds of incidents of intimidation and harassment of election workers and officials nationwide, Reuters found only a handful of arrests.
Local police agencies said in interviews that they have struggled to identify suspects who conceal their identities and to determine which threats are credible enough to prosecute. The U.S. Justice Department has acknowledged that law enforcement has not responded well to the surge in threats to election officials.
“The response has been inadequate,” John Keller, a senior attorney in the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, told a meeting of secretaries of state in Iowa on Aug. 14. Keller heads a task force created in July to investigate threats of violence to election workers and to coordinate with local and state authorities that receive most initial reports of intimidation.
After this story was published, Justice Department spokesman Joshua Stueve issued a statement to Reuters about the wave of threats. “The Justice Department is committed to aggressively addressing threats of violence directed toward state and local election workers and will work tirelessly with our federal, state, and local partners to strengthen our collective efforts to combat this recent and entirely unacceptable phenomenon,” Stueve wrote.
The Reuters investigation revealed a breakdown in coordination and accountability among various levels of law enforcement. Some election officials fumed that police investigators or federal agents didn’t appear to take the threats seriously and that it was unclear which agency, if any, was investigating. Some said they never heard from investigators again after reporting threats of violence. When pressed about the status of some cases, several police officials said they had no involvement and pointed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Federal officials, by contrast, bemoaned a lack of information-sharing by local authorities.
Through public records and interviews, Reuters documented 102 threats of death or violence received by more than 40 election officials, workers and their relatives in eight of the most contested battleground states in the 2020 presidential contest. Each was explicit enough to put a reasonable person in fear of bodily harm or death, the typical legal threshold for prosecution.
Almost all of the 102 threats of violence appeared to be inspired by Trump’s debunked claims that the election was rigged against him. The messages often included highly personal, sometimes sexualized threats of violence or death, not only to the officials themselves but also to their family members and their children.
A spokesman for Trump did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Reuters interviewed 26 election officials for this story, including eight secretaries of state. Only one of those officials, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, was aware of anyone being charged in connection to the intimidation. That incident is among just four nationwide in which Reuters was able to document an arrest, based on public records or news accounts, though it is possible that more arrests were made.
Those four open cases have yet to result in a conviction.
The 102 threats were the most egregious examples among a larger set of hundreds of hostile messages received by local and state election workers, according to interviews and records documenting the intimidation. In addition to the messages that threatened violence, hundreds of others contained harassing language that was disturbing, profane and sometimes racist or misogynistic. The intimidation has affected all levels of election administrators, from rank-and-file poll workers to secretaries of state.
In his August speech, Keller, the Justice Department task-force leader, said the department has until recently had little visibility into threats received by election workers. That’s changing, he said, with the task force now collecting threats from election officials through the FBI’s 56 field offices, rather than relying on local law enforcement.
But he added that federal authorities lacked the “infrastructure” to monitor threats against all officials. “We’re relying heavily right now on reports from individuals who are aware of these kinds of threats.”
The FBI’s Washington headquarters, along with field offices in several states, declined to comment for this story.
Often, police have failed to identify the person making reported threats to election workers. But some police who have identified suspects have determined they committed no crime. In the Nevada incident, the investigating detective concluded in his summary of the case that the threats constituted legally protected speech because the suspect merely said he “wished” election workers would die.
“This is what you’re going to f------ get from now on. You’re all going to f------ die, and it is what you deserve.” Threat to Nevada election workers
McElyea’s witness account contradicts the detective’s assessment and never quotes the caller saying he “wished” death on election workers. Rather, she makes clear the man repeatedly told her that she and her colleagues would be killed. “This is what you’re going to f------ get from now on,” her transcript quotes the caller as saying. “You’re all going to f------ die, and it is what you deserve.”
That language rises to the level of a criminal threat that could be prosecuted under federal law, said Jared Carter, a law professor at Cornell University and specialist in protected speech who reviewed the threat at the request of Reuters. “Whoever made that call is certainly at risk of being prosecuted,” said Carter, who is not connected to the case.
State police declined to comment when asked if the investigating detective mischaracterized the threat.
Two prosecutors and three constitutional law experts interviewed for this story said the rash of threats against election workers has exposed confusion in law enforcement over protections for political speech.
Threats to commit any violence – especially repeated threats intended to cause terror – are not protected by the First Amendment, said Mary McCord, a former acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice who now teaches at Georgetown Law School. McCord and other experts say some incidents pose challenges for prosecutors, and that applicable laws don’t prescribe any “magic words” that a threat must include to constitute a crime.
A number of state and federal laws allow for the prosecution of people who threaten political violence. Many states make it a felony to threaten acts of terrorism, according to a recent report by Georgetown Law School’s Crime and Justice Institute. Such laws generally define terrorism as violent acts intended to coerce a political outcome, such as reversing an election result. Prosecutors also can use anti-stalking laws to charge people with committing acts of intimidation, scholars say. And federal law makes it a felony to issue a threat across state lines, such as by phone or email.
As law enforcement struggles to respond effectively, some election officials are taking responsibility for their own security.
Milwaukee’s city election commissioner, Claire Woodall-Vogg, plans to install security glass in her office. A senior county election official in Arizona said in an interview that he wears body armor whenever he leaves his house. Janice Winfrey, Detroit’s city clerk, took firearms training and now carries a concealed weapon after receiving threats.
“I never believed in guns before, even living in Detroit,” which is historically among America’s most violent cities, she said. “I was afraid for my life.”
Law enforcement’s inaction has frustrated some of the election officials living in fear of being assaulted or killed.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has made no arrests after investigating threats against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, and his family. The Raffenspergers received dozens of menacing messages that were documented in a Reuters investigation published in June .
Some of the threats to the Raffenspergers and other election officials were investigated by the GBI, and more serious threats involving imminent physical harm were investigated by the FBI, according to a statement from the Georgia Attorney General’s office. The AG determined that none of the threats it reviewed rose to the level of criminal conduct, the office said.
The FBI’s Atlanta field office declined to comment on its investigation of the threats.
No arrests have been made.
Tricia Raffensperger, wife of the secretary of state, said the lack of action to protect election workers stands in stark contrast to the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into the pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January, which has produced about 600 arrests.
“You look at January 6 and how many people they’ve arrested,” she said in an interview. “They were able to locate those people and arrest them. Why can’t they follow up on the death threats we get?”
“The only way it’s going to stop is when people get caught,” she said.
The FBI is now stepping up its investigation into the threats against Georgia election officials that were first reported by Reuters in June, according to Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron.
Barron said he met last week with an FBI agent and a GBI agent seeking more information about the threats. The FBI agent, Barron said, told him that Reuters’ reporting had pressured the Department of Justice to intensify the probe. The investigators, he said, asked for documentation of threats against Barron and said they also would investigate intimidation of others in his office.
Local, state and federal authorities have also looked into credible death threats against senior election officials in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Colorado, but have so far made no arrests, according to election officials in those states who are familiar with the investigations.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who says she continues to get regular death threats, said the lack of prosecutions is “concerning when people are telling you repeatedly they’re going to come hang you, they’re repeatedly threatening you. And that they know where you live, and they’re going to come and get you.”
‘I see you sleeping. Be afraid’
Griswold’s social media accounts lit up with threats after she adopted rules on June 17 forbidding partisan post-election audits in Colorado similar to those being conducted in Arizona and Wisconsin, which are led by pro-Trump politicians who have amplified his debunked election fraud claims. Reviewing the threats at home, Griswold took screenshots on her cell phone to preserve evidence.
“Patriots will take care of you. I would move and change your address... quickly,” read an Instagram comment. “Guess who is going to hang when all the fraud is revealed? (*Hint ..look in the mirror).” Another comment under a childhood photo she had posted online, to wish her dad a happy Father’s Day, read: “Prepare for the gallows.”
The comments were from Instagram user stevet420, who had been posting harassing and threatening messages against Griswold since April, according to his posts, which have since been deleted.
She sent the screenshots to the Colorado State Patrol, which responded by providing Griswold, 36, with around-the-clock protection for three weeks from late June as officers investigated. They identified stevet420 as Steven Telepchak, a 42-year-old information-technology manager in Pennsylvania, but did not pursue charges.
“These posts have been thoroughly investigated, and there are no planned arrests based upon the findings,” Colorado State Police said in a statement, declining to explain why the force dropped the case.
Telepchak did not respond to requests for comment.
Griswold lamented that no one has been held accountable. While her police protection has ended, the threats of violence have not, she said.
“Watch your back. I KNOW WHERE YOU SLEEP, I SEE YOU SLEEPING. BE AFRAID,” said one Facebook message on Aug. 10. Another anonymous caller telephoned her office on Aug. 3 and said he was “going to shoot every employee in the building,” Griswold said.
Each day, a member of Griswold’s staff with no background in security scours the Internet looking for threatening messages, she said. Griswold requested an additional security detail from state police after the most recent threats, but was denied.
“The level to get security is not that ‘I’m going to come kill you,’ or ‘I am going to come kill you with a gun,’” she said. “It’s like: ‘I am going to come kill you on a Tuesday with a gun,’ and I have to send it to you 20 times.”
Colorado State Patrol said it decides on protection details on a case-by-case basis and declined further comment on why Griswold’s request was not granted.
“All messages of concern are reviewed and investigated thoroughly,” a State Patrol spokesman said.
‘Cops can’t help you’
In Philadelphia, the three city commissioners and a senior official overseeing elections faced at least a dozen death threats in October and November, according to interviews with the officials and a Reuters review of the threatening messages sent to them. The threats started before the November election, as Trump publicly told his supporters to expect voter fraud in Philadelphia. The city’s police department considered the threats serious enough to station officers outside their homes. One official and the family of another went into hiding for a few days.
No one has been arrested in connection with the threats. The FBI was called to investigate, the city officials said. The FBI’s Philadelphia Division declined to comment. The Philadelphia Police Department declined to comment on whether it investigated threats against the city officials.
Seth Bluestein, a deputy to Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, is disappointed by the lack of effective enforcement. “The individuals who are making the threats should be held accountable,” he said.
Bluestein faced a blast of threats on Facebook and in text messages to his phone, including several with anti-Semitic rhetoric. The intimidation started soon after the election when he was criticized by an official at a Trump campaign news conference, who falsely claimed Bluestein had intimidated Trump’s election observers.
“EVERYONE WITH A GUN IS GOING TO BE AT YOUR HOUSE- AMERICANS LOOK AT THE NAME- ANOTHER JEW CAUGHT UP IN UNITED STATES VOTER FRAUD,” read one Facebook message to Bluestein.
Bluestein’s boss, Schmidt, was targeted by a torrent of threats starting on Nov. 11, when Schmidt appeared on CNN saying he had seen no evidence of widespread election fraud. The appearance sparked a Twitter tirade from Trump, who questioned whether Schmidt was really a Republican.
Over the next month, Schmidt received multiple death threats, according to the messages reviewed by Reuters. Some targeted his wife or threatened his children by name.
One threat included a photo of his house taken from a real-estate website and said his family “will be fatally shot.”
“Cops can’t help you,” it went on. “Heads on spikes. Treasonous Schmidts.”
Police stationed officers outside Schmidt’s home. His wife and children stayed with relatives for about a week, escorted by a security detail. Schmidt’s elderly parents also received extra security, in part because they live nearby and Schmidt and his father share the same name.
“Cops can’t help you. Heads on spikes. Treasonous Schmidts.” Anonymous threat sent to the wife of Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt
Schmidt said the FBI has investigated the threats, and the agents took them seriously. Philadelphia’s two other city commissioners, Lisa Deeley and Omar Sabir, both Democrats, also received death threats and police protection. Sabir said he spent several nights in October hiding out at a hotel. Deeley said she suffers occasional anxiety attacks as a result of the threats.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar saw a surge in the volume and severity of threats on Nov. 13, when she confirmed that there would be no recount of the state’s results in the presidential vote. One message warned that an assailant would come to her home in the middle of the night and kill her, she said in an interview. She and her husband fled their home and went into hiding for a week.
No one has been arrested. Boockvar says she never got word of any inquiry.
“Everybody was perplexed about what to do,” she said of the law enforcement response.
Boockvar has since left her position as secretary of state for reasons unrelated to the threats. The Capitol Police, which oversees security on state-owned property, said it investigated four threats against Boockvar and her staff but made no arrests because the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office advised that the threats could not be prosecuted. The Capitol Police declined to detail the nature of the threats it examined or release any reports on the investigation.
“These cases did not involve any explicit threats to cause harm,” said the county district attorney, Fran Chardo. “As distasteful as the messages were, they could not support criminal charges.”
Death threats not ‘taken seriously’
Some of the most severe threats documented by Reuters came in Georgia, where Republican state election officials were targeted as traitors by Trump and many of his supporters for refusing to overturn his election loss in the traditionally conservative state.
Republican Secretary of State Raffensperger, along with his family and staff, received a deluge of death threats after he pushed back against Trump’s stolen-election claims. His wife, Tricia, spoke with Reuters about the family’s ordeal in June and recently. She said she forwarded every harassing message she received to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
“Every time I got one, I sent it off immediately,” she said.
In January, someone communicated a threat directly to the GBI that warned the Raffenspergers’ home would be bombed, Tricia said. The bomb threat, which has not previously been reported, caused the Raffenspergers to take precautions including starting their car remotely from a safe distance before driving anywhere.
Senior officials in Raffensperger’s office, who also received frequent death threats, said they too forwarded their messages to the GBI.
The GBI investigated some of the threats and forwarded those considered “life-threatening” to the FBI, the Georgia AG’s office said. In some cases, state investigators could not identify a suspect, the office said. In cases where they could identify and contact the person making the threats, the AG’s office decided against filing charges. The office declined to comment on why the incidents did not meet the legal standard for prosecution.
Following the June Reuters report detailing the intimidation of the Raffenspergers, the FBI contacted the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, asking the office to share the threats again, said Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs. “I don’t understand why they weren’t taken seriously to begin with,” said Fuchs. “We had already reported them.”
Brad Raffensperger, running for re-election next year, said he is concerned that communities nationwide will struggle to find enough poll workers to help run elections unless the people threatening election staff are arrested and punished.
“People need to realize that what they say does have consequences,” he said in an interview.
Barron, the elections director in Georgia’s biggest county, said he worries about the lack of accountability. His office in Fulton County has faced a stream of threatening messages involving the 2020 election, including a voicemail in June that warned: “time’s running out.” The anonymous caller singled Barron out by name in a vulgar message calling him a “communist” and warning: “You’re going to be served lead.”
Another caller on June 14 threatened to shoot the county’s voter education and outreach staff and use his “second amendment right,” a reference to the U.S. Constitution’s right to bear arms, according to an email reporting the threat by an election worker who received it.
Barron said these previously unreported threats and dozens of others against his staff were sent to the Fulton County Police Department. The local department then liaises with the FBI and GBI, according to Wade Yates, the county police chief.
“You’re going to be served lead.” Anonymous threat to Fulton County, Georgia, elections director Richard Barron
None of the incidents have produced arrests. Yates said investigations into threats made online can be especially “cumbersome,” particularly when senders mask their identity. The department, he said, also struggles to make cases because of free-speech issues.
“Everyone who receives a nasty email or a threat has a right to be concerned about it, but we have to vet those and determine which ones are real threats versus free speech,” said Yates.
In Detroit, city clerk Winfrey has prepared to defend herself after receiving threats on her life.
She began carrying a firearm after a man confronted her outside her home in November, accusing her office of rigging the election against Trump. That evening, the same man sent her a Facebook message threatening to blow up her neighborhood block, prompting her to alert Detroit Police, she said. Her children bought her a stun gun and mace. Winfrey got a concealed pistol license, a gun and training in how to shoot it. “I always have something with me now,” she said.
Winfrey said she reported the confrontation and the Facebook threat to police, who responded and took her statement. She said she later deleted that and other harassing messages because they were disturbing.
Detroit police spokesman Rudy Harper said that the department did not investigate the matter as a crime because the man did not threaten violence when he confronted Winfrey outside her home. Harper said the department had no record of the bomb threat made on Facebook.
In some cases, election workers who received threats have spent months wondering if anything was being done about them.
On Nov. 17, a man telephoned Antonio Luna, a worker in Arizona’s Maricopa County Elections Department, threatening to shoot and kill him. Two weeks later, Luna received a call from the same man on the same number, who again threatened him with death, according to a transcript of the call created by Luna.
“He has my name now,” Luna wrote in a Dec. 1 email to senior Maricopa County election officials.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the case, said its detectives were unable to identify a suspect and the case was closed. No arrests were made. Luna only learned the case was closed when Reuters told him.
“I never heard anything back,” he said.
Terroristic threats against U.S. election officials highlight legal gray area
A patchwork of state and federal laws can be used to prosecute the people behind a barrage of personal attacks and intimidating messages that are being sent to America’s election administrators. But legal scholars and current and former prosecutors say authorities must walk a fine line between America’s laws against criminal threats and its constitutional protections on political speech.
Some prosecutors hesitate to take on such cases, said Kendra Albert, who teaches at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. “They may see some of these suggestions of violence as political speech,” Albert said. “Courts are going to really heavily scrutinize these prosecutions under the First Amendment.”
Constitutional protections, however, do not cover threats of violence, and numerous state and federal laws allow police and prosecutors to pursue cases against people who terrorize others, for political reasons or other motives, legal scholars say. Many states make it a felony to threaten acts of terrorism.
Georgia, for instance, criminalizes threats made with the “purpose of terrorizing another.” Police in the southern Georgia city of Albany arrested Richard Dubose on Dec. 31 for allegedly yelling a racial slur and threatening Gregory Murphy, a Black campaign worker who had left a flyer at his home. They charged Dubose, who is white, with “terroristic threats and acts,” according to a police statement. Dubose, 49, is one of just four people arrested for election-related threats involving the 2020 vote, according to a Reuters review of public records and news accounts. The case remains open.
Dubose could not be reached for comment.
Federal law also makes it a felony to communicate a threat across state lines, such as by phone or email. That’s the statute used to charge Katelyn Jones, of New Hampshire, who federal prosecutors accused in December of threatening the daughter of Monica Palmer, a Wayne County, Michigan election official. Jones, a former Michigan resident, came to believe that Palmer had interfered in last year’s presidential election. Jones’ motivations and political leanings remain unclear; she couldn’t be reached for comment.
Prosecutors alleged that Jones sent the Republican election official pictures of a “bloody, deceased, nude, mutilated woman,” followed by a photo of Palmer’s daughter. “I’d just like you to imagine that’s … your beautiful daughter,” one text read, according to court records. Under one of Palmer’s Instagram posts, Jones wrote: “Hmmm it’d be a shame if something happened to your daughter at school.”
Jones, 24, is the only person charged with a federal crime involving threats related to the 2020 presidential election. She sent the threats on Nov. 18, a day after Palmer and her four-member board certified Democrat Joe Biden’s win over Republican Donald Trump in the county. Palmer had earlier voted against certification.
About a month later, Jones was arrested and pleaded not guilty. The case remains open.
State and federal laws against stalking could also apply to intimidation of election workers, legal experts said, particularly in cases of repeated threats of violence over a period of time. Such laws generally prohibit any actions that put a person in reasonable fear of death or serious injury, or cause emotional distress.
Legal scholars acknowledge, however, that many allegedly threatening messages and incidents fall into a gray area.
“There’s no bright-line rule that says, these are the magic words that must be included in a threat,” said Mary McCord, a former acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice who now teaches at Georgetown Law School.
Adding to the confusion, legal scholars say, has been the apparent reluctance of the U.S. Supreme Court to address when states can criminalize threatening speech. In 2020, for instance, the court refused to review a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said a state law classifying a threat as a felony was unconstitutional because it could penalize protected speech.
“There’s much debate within academia, within the legal community and within the judiciary generally as to exactly what’s required in order to punish someone for speaking or writing a threat,” said Jared Carter, associate director of the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic. “We really need clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court on this topic.”
Campaign of Fear
By Linda So and Jason Szep
Photo editing: Corinne Perkins
Video: Linda So
Art direction: John Emerson
Edited by Brian Thevenot
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