Ahead of the upcoming November 8 election, United States Attorney Erek L. Barron today named two deputies to lead his office’s efforts to respond to reports of intimidation at ballot drop boxes, threats of violence to election officials or staff and election fraud allegations.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Wise and Geonard Butler will staff the Baltimore office’s participation in the Justice Department’s nationwide oversight of the upcoming midterm elections.
The department “works tirelessly to ensure that every citizen is able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted in a fair and free election,” Barron said in a statement released by his office.
“Nor will we tolerate unlawful threats of violence to election officials and staff, who are integral to our country’s election process,” Barron continued. “The right to vote is the cornerstone of American democracy. We will bring to justice those who seek to corrupt that right.”
The program is part of the Biden Administration’s response to threats to the nation’s election security amid efforts by right-wing activists, who have banded together to spread false claims of widespread election fraud and misconduct.
The program seeks to ensure public confidence in the electoral process by providing local points of contact for the public to report possible federal election law violations.
Election officials see the midterms as the biggest test of the election system since Donald Trump’s lies about the results of the 2020 election.
Those fears are stoked by incidents that have already taken place in elections elsewhere this year:
In Michigan, a poll worker was charged with tampering with an election computer. In Texas, activists followed election officials to their offices and tried to enter secured areas. In Alabama, activists tried to insert fake ballots into a machine during public testing, the New York Times reported.
Barron notes that federal law protects against such crimes as:
• threatening violence against election officials or staff.
• intimidating or bribing voters.
• buying or selling votes.
• impersonating voters.
• altering vote tallies.
• stuffing ballot boxes or marking ballots for voters against their wishes.
Wise and Butler will be on duty in Maryland while the polls are open. Wise can be reached by the public at 410-209-4800 and Butler can be reached at 301-344-4433.
Barron said allegations of election fraud or voting rights violations will be reviewed in consultation with state and federal authorities where appropriate and that his office will pursue “any case that warrants prosecution.”
The FBI will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on election day. The local FBI field office can be reached by the public at 410-265-8080.
Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can also be made directly to the Civil Rights Division in Washington, DC by phone at 800-253-3931 or by complaint form at https://civilrights.justice.gov/.
The announcement advises that, in the case of a crime of violence or intimidation, people should call 911 immediately before contacting federal authorities.
“State and local police have primary jurisdiction over polling places, and almost always have faster reaction capacity in an emergency,” the release said.