Opinion: It’s time to end harassment of Georgia’s elected officials

Georgia’s Gold Dome. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
Georgia’s Gold Dome. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

THE EDITORIAL BOARD’S OPINION

Enough is enough.

That was the message delivered last week by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Speaking to reporters at the Gold Dome after an event at Grady Memorial Hospital, he implored those who have called on Georgia to overturn the election results to stop harassing his family.

“It has gotten ridiculous — from death threats, (claims of) bribes from China, the social media posts that my children are getting,” the governor said.

“If anybody has an issue with something I’ve done, they need to come see me, and I’ll talk to them about it. They don’t need to bother my wife or my children or anybody.”

We heard the same message earlier this month from Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia elections official.

During his emotional press conference, Sterling cited threats against a voting systems company technician in Gwinnett County, as well as threats against himself.

“This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy,” Sterling said. “And all of you who haven’t said a damn word are complicit in this.”

And in recertifying Biden’s win after yet a third count, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger revealed that he, too, had received death threats. He is protected by a security detail and pleaded with those upset by the results to tone down their rhetoric.

12/14/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia —  Gabriel Sterling, Voting System Implementation Manager with the Georgia Secretary of State's offices peaks during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Monday, December 14, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
12/14/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Gabriel Sterling, Voting System Implementation Manager with the Georgia Secretary of State's offices peaks during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Monday, December 14, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Remember, all three men are Republicans.

These personal attacks – and the potential to incite violence – have gone on far too long.

State elections officials have maintained there is no evidence of systemic irregularities. Courts at every level have tossed out every complaint.

Yet, the assertions – and the ugly undertones – rage on.

As the governor said last week: “It’s fine to disagree on policy. We’re just not going to go down the road of enticing violence — at least here in this state, as long as I’m governor.”

With a handful of Georgia county elections directors behind him, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announces the start of a hand recount of the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election during a briefing outside of the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
With a handful of Georgia county elections directors behind him, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announces the start of a hand recount of the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election during a briefing outside of the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Long before Twitter and Facebook, Woodrow Wilson once said that democracy is not so much a form of government as it is a set of principles.

One of those guiding principles is the confidence every American must have when it comes to choosing our elected officials.

We must believe that our voices will be heard. That our votes will count. That those sworn to oversee our elections will do so without fear and intimidation.

Let’s not forget that all of this threatens to have a lasting impact on our democratic process.

Most metro Atlanta community leaders believe the polarizing political scene has created a serious divide among Georgians that could worsen. Even more worrisome? Some voters say they won’t cast ballots in the Jan. 5 runoffs because their faith in the system has been shaken.

This isn’t the way the balance of power should be decided – under a cloud of apprehension that the system is somehow broken; amid threats of death against those who oversee our elections.

Despite the personal attacks, Georgia’s officials have stayed the course.

As Kemp last week: “At the end of the day, I’ve got to follow the laws and the Constitution and the Constitution of this state.”

The governor and those who have spoken before him have done their part in condemning the dangerous words that have overshadowed this year’s election.

Now it’s time for Georgians to do their part.

Join the governor and others in saying enough is enough.

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