Editor’s Note: Jocelyn Benson is the Secretary of State of Michigan and author of “State Secretaries of State, Guardians of the Democratic Process.” The views in this commentary belong to the author. View more opinion at CNN.
In a sad reflection of the divisive moment in which our country now finds itself, armed people descended on my home last Saturday, screaming falsehoods and obscenities into a bullhorn while my family was finishing hanging Christmas decorations and my four year old was settling in to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
In the dark of night, these agitators, unhappy with the results of an election that did not go their partisan way and buoyed with falsehoods and unproven allegations of fraud, spent 40 minutes chanting about disproven conspiracy theories and stolen elections.
As an attorney and former law school dean, I am a vociferous advocate for the right and importance of peaceful protest as enshrined in the United States Constitution. But a line is crossed when the gatherings occur at private residences with the express goal to intimidate public officials who are carrying out their oath of office.
But let’s be clear. This incident, terrifying and unnerving as it was for my family and our neighbors – several of whom have young kids of their own – was not an isolated one. It is instead just the latest in a string of attacks that are a direct outgrowth of the hateful rhetoric and threats of violence we’ve seen invade our public discourse here in Michigan, and throughout our country, for several months. Indeed, in the month since the polls closed on November 3, we’ve seen hardworking public officials and election administrators on both sides of the aisle subjected to incessant and baseless threats designed to stop us from doing our jobs.
Rep. Cynthia Johnson, an African American state legislator from Detroit, received racist voicemails threatening her life after challenging election fraud claims. My fellow Secretaries of States Brad Raffensberger in Georgia, Katie Hobbs in Arizona and Barbara Cegavske in Nevada have all received death threats. And Chris Krebs, former director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, on Tuesday filed a lawsuit after a lawyer for the Trump campaign said Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot.” (Trump’s lawyer has said he was just joking, but that’s no laughing matter in today’s political environment.)
For all of us, our job is simple: to defend and protect every voter, their choice and their vote. And each of us will continue to proudly, defiantly, guard every citizen’s vote, undeterred, because no matter how one voted or who they voted for, where they live, or what they look like, their vote is the lifeblood of our democracy.
And the misguided efforts to spread lies designed to undermine people’s faith in what was a well-run, secure, fair and accurate election, need to stop.
It’s gone on too long, and it’s gone too far.
In Michigan, attacks on our voters and their democracy escalated months ago, when Trump threate