‘Fallout from the big lie’: Election officials used to worry about foreign threats — now they fear homegrown terrorists
Donald Trump (AFP)

Election officials until recently worried most about foreign interference, but a classified briefing from earlier this year showed a new threat has risen since the 2020 election.

Thousands of election officials around the U.S. have spent countless hours pushing back on false claims by Donald Trump and his supporters about his loss to Joe Biden, and many of them fear for their physical safety ahead of November's midterm elections, reported CNN.

Physical security concerns have "really ramped up since 2020 because of threats that we've seen to state and local officials across the country," said Kim Wyman, the top election security official at the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The agency has advised election workers to report threats to law enforcement and has hired more staff to protect them from domestic terror threats, but at the same time foreign disinformation remains a concern.

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"Let's face it: In terms of foreign influence, actors like Russia have [a history of ] coordinated efforts where they are not only trying to attack the confidence that voters have in the United States of our election system and to try to sow discord and ... amplify that mis- and disinformation that is out there," Wyman said, "but that is a coordinated effort with their attacks on the cyber infrastructure as well."

Officials aren't aware of any specific threat to the 2022 elections, but local and state officials are constantly fielding conspiracy claims related to Trump's election loss and are taking steps to protect themselves from violent threats to sometimes come with those complaints about the last presidential election.

"In the fallout from the big lie, with physical threats and harassment of election officials added to cybersecurity challenges and the continuing pandemic, it's never been harder to administer elections and it's never been more expensive," said Ben Hovland, who serves on the Election Assistance Commission. "The real question that policymakers have to ask themselves is: Are we willing to invest in our democracy in the way that it deserves to be?"