Voters in at least two states, perhaps more, have reported receiving emails from unknown senders threatening them, saying that if they cast a ballot against President Donald Trump in the upcoming election they will face severe consequences for doing so.
Voters in every state in the country are guaranteed a secret ballot, and no one can find out who a person voted for in the election. Still, the threats are ominous enough that some who have received them are taking them seriously, particularly those who may be less tech savvy and may believe what’s being written is actually possible.
“While I am not intimidated by this scam looking email, my elderly mother very much was/is,” Debi Martinez, a voter in Florida, said to CBS News.
So far, officials in Alaska and Florida have acknowledged reports of individuals receiving the emails. There have also been reports that similar emails have been received in Arizona and Pennsylvania, and it’s possible residents in other states have received them, too.
The senders of the emails say they have access to recipients’ voting records. They also claim to have the voters’ personal phone numbers and home addresses.
“You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure,” some of the emails said. “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply.”
Recipients are told to “vote for Trump or else!” in many of the messages.
Some of the emails purport to have been sent by members of the Proud Boys, a far right white supremacist group that Trump famously called out to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate. However, metadata from the emails suggests they were sent from somewhere else, and the chairman of the extremist organization has denied involvement in the matter.
A review of the source code from some of the emails reveals IP addresses that originate from other countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Estonia. However, IP addresses don’t confirm where the messages may have originated — they could have been routed through servers in those places, for example, to mask their true place of origin.
Voter intimidation tactics, which are illegal in every state in the country, are on the rise in several places across the U.S., but they are not just happening through anonymous actions like these emails. Indeed, the commander-in-chief himself and his supporters in the Republican Party have actively engaged in some questionable behavior around people’s right to vote and access to the ballot box.
Trump hasn’t yet commented on the threatening emails that were sent, but neither he nor his campaign appears to be involved in them. Still, he himself has engaged in actions lately that look to some to be efforts to scare voters at the polls.
Trump told his supporters during the first presidential debate, for example, to “go into the polls and watch very carefully,” a statement that many took to mean he wanted his supporters to intimidate others into voting for him. His son, Donald Trump Jr. has also asked Trump’s supporters to join an “army” for his father’s “election security operation.”
“He wasn’t talking about poll watching. He was talking about voter intimidation,” Nevada’s Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford tweeted last month regarding the president’s request for his supporters to go to polling places.