Georgia’s voting systems manager Gabriel Sterling fervently denounced the threats and harassment directed at election workers, imploring President Donald Trump to stop provoking such behavior and to condemn it instead.
“It has to stop,” said Sterling, who is a Republican, on Tuesday. “Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”
The election official was visibly shaken as he addressed reporters at the Georgia State Capitol, telling them he would do his best to keep it together during his remarks.
“Mr. President, it looks like a likely loss in the state of Georgia,” he said. “We’re investigating, there’s always a possibility. I get it. You have the right to go through the courts.”
He continued: “What you don’t have is the ability to — and you need to step up and say this — is stop inspiring people to commit potential violence. Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed. It’s not right.”
Trump has refused to accept his loss in Georgia and in the 2020 presidential election as a whole, asserting falsely that he fell victim to widespread voter fraud. He has attacked election officials, many in his own party, who say the election was secure.
In particular, he has directed his ire at Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans. Raffensperger has maintained that he has confidence in the election results. Kemp certified them. The state is completing a second recount requested by the Trump campaign.
The first audit confirmed that President-elect Joe Biden won by roughly 12,000 votes.
GOP leaders have stayed largely silent about Trump’s onslaught on the state’s voting system.
Sterling said Raffensberger, his boss, has had intruders at his home and that his wife has received “sexualized threats” on her cellphone.
“This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this,” he said. “It’s too much.”
Sterling also referred to violent rhetoric a day earlier from Joe diGenova, a lawyer for the Trump campaign, who said that former U.S. cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs should be shot for defending the integrity of the election. Trump fired Krebs earlier this month for doing so.
The straw that broke the camel’s back on Tuesday, Sterling said, was news that a contractor for a voting system company in his 20s was being harassed.
“His family is getting harassed now. There’s a noose out there with his name on it,” he said.
Sterling said he and his boss had police protection at their houses, which he could come to terms with, given that he took a high-profile position.
But “this kid took a job,” he said. “He just took a job.”
The Trump campaign’s baseless conspiracy theories and lies about a rigged election are a threat to voters’ faith in U.S. democracy, but current and former law enforcement officials have also raised concerns that they could become fodder for extremist violence.