Yesterday, the Electoral College convened and voted to make Donald Trump the next President of the United States. In most presidential election years, this process barely makes the news. But this year, amidst celebrity calls for electors to abandon the person for whom they were pledged to vote, electors have been threatened with mountains of harassing emails, voicemails, and letters and even death threats:
The nation’s 538 presidential electors have been thrust into the political foreground like never before in American history. In the aftermath of a uniquely polarizing presidential contest, the once-anonymous electors are squarely in the spotlight, targeted by death threats, harassing phone calls and reams of hate mail. One Texas Republican elector said he’s been bombarded with more than 200,000 emails.
Just a few disturbing examples:
- By mid-November, 22-year-old Michigan elector Michael Banerian had already received hundreds of emails: “You have people saying ‘you’re a hateful bigot, I hope you die,’ ” he said. “I’ve had people talk about shoving a gun in my mouth and blowing my brains out. And I’ve received dozens and dozens of those emails. Even the non-threatening-my-life emails are very aggressive.”
- Every elector in Pennsylvania was assigned a plainclothes state police officer for protection: Thousands of emails land in their inboxes every day. Copies of the Federalist Papers and other books urging political courage are being mailed to their homes. They are even getting phone calls in the middle of the night.
- One elector in Arkansas had to file a police report due to "continual threats."
The duties, selection, and voting requirements of electors in each state are established by state law, and the electors who voted for Trump yesterday were fulfilling their legal duties. To their credit, most Democratic leaders have decried the threats, but the Department of Justice has been strangely silent. Such threats against electors likely fall under the prohibition against voter intimidation or harassment contained in Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which falls under DOJ's jurisdiction. Interstate communications that threaten another person are punishable under 18 U.S.C. 875(c).
However, it appears that the FBI and DOJ have done nothing to investigate the threats against presidential electors. We hope that the Trump Justice Department will investigate these threats, which not only threaten the electors individually but also our constitutional republic and the uniquely American nonviolent transition of power.