Lewis County Election Workers Receive Threats

Nov. 23—Searching "violent threats election workers" in Google pulls up about 66 million results today. There are pages upon pages of 2022 election stories from news outlets across the U.S. about online or in-person threats to ballot counters, canvassing board volunteers and other election helpers, reported by the Associated Press and others as having stemmed from former President Donald Trump's disproven claims of nationwide election fraud during the 2020 election.

"Nearly two years after the last presidential election, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines," the Associated Press reported earlier this year as threats against election workers nonetheless rolled in across the country.

Every partisan elected official in Lewis County is Republican, including Auditor Larry Grove. His office and the canvassing board — which reviews ballots rejected due to lateness, or where signatures are missing or unmatching what's on file — are facing direct threats of violence that Lewis County Commissioner Lindsey Pollock called "not acceptable" during a meeting on Monday.

"We were in receipt of an emailed threat to the canvassing board regarding a vote that had been postmarked late, noting 'heads would roll either in the office or the parking lot,'" Pollock said.

The Chronicle confirmed the existence of that email, along with two others from the same voter, whose ballot was postmarked Nov. 9, the auditor's office stated. Election workers then filed for an investigation on the threat from the Lewis County Sheriff's Office.

"This is the system working," said Terry Jouper, elections supervisor, who added the ballot-counting machines and election workers would be breaking the law if they accepted ballots that were late or didn't fulfill all necessary requirements.

Ahead of a Wednesday morning canvassing meeting, usually held in the public lobby of the Lewis County Courthouse, the auditor's office was preparing for increased security, which possibly included staffing from the sheriff's office and a plan to hold the meeting behind closed windows, according to one staff member in the meeting Monday. The board is made up of Commissioner Lindsey Pollock, Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Meyer and Grove. This year, Grove and Meyer included representatives from their office as part of the process because both ran in the election, though they were unopposed.

Though the Wednesday morning meeting was held with extra precautions, things went off without a hitch.

"Unfortunately election workers across the country have faced threats in recent years. The Lewis County Auditor's Office follows all state and federal election laws. We will continue to perform our duties and serve the public," wrote Grove in a statement on the issue.

In Washington's 3rd Congressional District, candidate Joe Kent, R-Yacolt, has sown Trump's seeds of distrust. The 3rd District covers all of Skamania, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, and Lewis counties, along with a slice of Thurston, which all had Kent leading. It also encompasses Pacific and Clark counties, where his Democratic opponent Marie Gluesenkamp Perez led.

Kent has a two-year history of overt public claims the 2020 presidential election was "stolen."

As the race for the 3rd was called by many news outlets for Gluesenkamp Perez, Kent has taken to social media and the streets to "cure" ballots. He's been encouraging voters whose ballots were denied due to signature issues to resolve issues and potentially earn another vote in his favor. Election workers in Lewis County and across the state also attempt to contact voters whose ballots were rejected via mail and by phone ahead of certification.

Since election night, Kent's campaign has continually denied requests for comment from The Chronicle.

But unwillingness to speak with local news outlets hasn't meant silence. Every day since Nov. 8, Kent has tweeted and retweeted dog whistles that hint the 3rd district was rigged, calling the race "sketchy," "questionable," or that the remaining number of ballots is "not clear — the fog of war to demoralize."