An extensive email threat was sent to Democratic voters in Florida, Alaska, and Arizona, that said “Vote for Trump or else!”
On Tuesday morning, a University of Florida student got an email to her school account that she initially thought was just spam. The subject line said, “Vote for Trump or else!”
The email, a copy of which was provided to The Americano, went on to say: “We are in possession of all your information (email, address, telephone… everything). You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure. 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. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you.”
The student, who wishes to remain anonymous because of fear of retaliation, said in an interview with The Americano that she then became concerned and asked around to see if anyone else at her university had received the email threat. When no one said they had, she felt as if she was targeted because she’s a Democrat. But then she heard what had happened.
She wasn’t, in fact, the only person that received the email threat but appears to be part of an extensive email attack on Democratic voters in Alaska, Arizona, and Florida, according to CBS News.
The email reviewed by The Americano came from firstname.lastname@example.org. However, the The Washington Post reports that the Proud Boys, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that supports President Donald Trump, has denied any involvement in the cyber threat.
US intelligence is still investigating the origins of the emails. “Another government source said that U.S. officials are investigating whether people in Iran had hacked into a Proud Boys network or website to distribute threatening materials,” said Reuters. “This source said U.S. officials suspect the Iranian government was involved but that the evidence remains inconclusive.”
Officials in Alachua County, which is where the University of Florida is located and where she is registered to vote, issued a statement about the coordinated voter intimidation threat.
“We are in contact with and working in conjunction with our law enforcement partners at the local, state, and federal level, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security. The Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections has been notified as well,” according to their statement.
Voter registration is a public record in most states, including in Florida. The New York Times reports that in Alachua County, the email addresses of tens of thousands of voters are also publicly available.
“It’s very confusing and scary that someone is sending this out,” she said.
She added that she’s concerned other voters may take these threats seriously, especially the elderly, and ultimately change their vote to Trump out of fear.
“I know who the Proud Boys are,” she said. “I watched the debate and heard when Trump was asked to condemn them, so I was very concerned that I was getting an email from them.”
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In response to ongoing tactics in Florida, including recent emails meant to intimidate voters and dissuade them from participating in our democracy based on their party affiliation, the Joe Biden campaign issued the following statement:
“In the United States of America, we cannot and will not stand for any behavior that could intimidate voters from participating in our democracy. Our country stands for freedom, liberty, and democracy, and these scare tactics have no place in our state. It’s clear that those running scared will try anything in the closing weeks of the election. There are no excuses for this behavior. We are committed to making sure every Floridian can vote and every vote is counted,” the campaign said.
Voter intimidation is illegal and a federal crime. The Advancement Project, a nonprofit organization that focuses on civil rights issues, advises people in the US to document all tactics of voter intimidation. People should also call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE to report any threat. Spanish speakers should call 888-Ve-Y-Vota.