December 3, 2022

HAZING ARIZONA: Death threats on the rise as midterms approach

HAZING ARIZONA: Death threats against election officials on the rise as midterms approach

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Arizona’s top election official and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is experiencing an increase in death threats less than two weeks from election day. Hobbs has forwarded violent emails addressed to her office, along with claims of voter intimidation, to the Department of Justice and the FBI.

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Laced with offensive and misogynistic language, the electronic communications were addressed to Hobbs, her director of election services, Kori Lorick, and others.

“Attention ALL Corrupt and Treasonous Government Officials…If you Cunt Lickers continue to fuck with the integrity of the AZ Elections…I guarantee you, We the People will remove you from office…Additionally, if you own a home…We will find you through the Tax Assessors Website…Remember the French revolution of 1799??” the email’s author wrote, according to a copy of the message seen by VICE News.

Allegations of mass voter intimidation caused the FBI and Department of Justice to label Arizona as “one of the top states” experiencing threats to poll workers and election officials.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday that his department “will not permit voters to be intimidated,” VICE News reported.

Less than three weeks ago, 64-year-old Mark Rissi of Hiawatha, Iowa was arrested and charged with was charged with two counts of making a threatening interstate communication and one count of making a threatening telephone call, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, for threats made against Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman, and others.

In an expletive-filled voicemail partially redacted by the DOJ, Rissi threatened to “lynch” the Country Supervisor, alleging that Hickman lied about the 2020 election.

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“Hello Mr. [VICTIM], I am glad that you are standing up for democracy and want to place your hand on the Bible and say that the election was honest and fair. I really appreciate that. When we come to lynch your stupid lying Commie [expletive], you’ll remember that you lied on the [expletive] Bible, you piece of [expletive]. You’re gonna die, you piece of [expletive]. We’re going to hang you. We’re going to hang you,” Rissi allegedly wrote.

Last week, two men were spotted staking out a Mesa, Arizona dropbox, armed and wearing body armor. While Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone acknowledged the men didn’t technically break any laws, “it doesn’t make what they were doing acceptable,” he added.

Affiliated with the “election integrity” group Clean Elections, the men took pictures of voters’ vehicles and license plates before posting them online with baseless claims of voter fraud attached.

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An elderly couple forwarded a complaint to Hobbs, which was forwarded to the DOJ. According to VICE News:

“’As we were getting up to our car, two individuals took pictures of our license plate and our car. I got out and asked what they were doing. They claimed they were taking pictures for ‘election security’ and I took pictures of them to report them to the DOJ for voter intimidation and harassment. As we were pulling out, they continued to film my wife, myself, and our car,’ the complainant wrote, according to a copy of the complaint viewed by VICE News.”

Legal representatives for Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, created after the Clean Elections Act nearly two decades ago, sent a cease and desist letter to Clean Elections for misrepresentation and confusion over the use of their name.

“Your use is likely to cause members of the public to think that you are associated with the Clean Elections state agency and that your activities are affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by Clean Elections. Your actions violate several Arizona statutes and common-law doctrines. Accordingly, your use of CLEAN ELECTIONS USA is unlawful and you must immediately cease and desist all uses of CLEAN ELECTIONS USA,” attorney Mary R. O’Grady wrote.

Since voting to certify the results of the 2020 election in favor of then-President-elect Joe Biden, Hobbs has been at the center of election controversy.

In July, a Boston, MA man was arrested by the FBI for threatening to “explode a bomb” in Hobbs’ personal space if she didn’t resign, The Associated Press reported. A spokesman for Hobbs said that this was only one bomb threat out of hundreds that the office received.

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Hobbs is in a tight race against Trump-endorsed Kari Lake. The former Fox local news anchor transformed herself into an ultra-MAGA politician and built her campaign on anti-LGBTQ and xenophobic rhetoric.

It was recently reported that Lake hired a convicted drug dealer to work on her campaign who pled guilty to putting a hit on a law enforcement official.

Maricopa County election officials are working with the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center and federal law enforcement to ensure voters are safe casting their ballots.

“Voter intimidation is illegal, and no voter should feel threatened or intimidated when trying to vote,” Hobbs said in a statement Monday. “Anyone attempting to interfere with that right should be reported.”

Original reporting by David Gilbert at VICE News

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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