Georgia polling places face threats on election day

Gabriel Sterling of the secretary of state's office says he’s aware of a number of potential threats on election day, and law enforcement authorities have been notified. (File photo by Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Gabriel Sterling of the secretary of state's office says he’s aware of a number of potential threats on election day, and law enforcement authorities have been notified. (File photo by Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

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

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

Polling places in Cherokee County and elsewhere in Georgia are on guard against election day threats.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday that it learned of a threatening email that went to several county employees “regarding threats to polling locations on election day.” Employees at several other counties received the same email.

The sheriff’s office did not elaborate on the threats and said the source of the emails has not been identified. The FBI and the GBI are investigating, and the sheriff’s office said officers from various departments will be stationed at all 40 Cherokee County polling places.

The threats come as Georgia has become the center of the American political universe — Tuesday’s runoff election will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. The races pit Republican U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.

On the eve of the race, both President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden visited Georgia to encourage their supporters to vote in the Senate race.

Gabriel Sterling, who has served as the secretary of state’s voting system manager, said he’s aware of a number of potential threats on election day, and law enforcement authorities have been notified.

“We encourage everybody to please turn out, be safe, be smart and don’t let anybody get in the way of you casting your vote,” Sterling said. “We are aware of some (threats), but we’re trying to not discuss in too much detail about that while we’re trying to investigate and find out what the actual nature of those threats might be.”

Joseph Cousin, pastor at Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church in Woodstock, said a “Women for Warnock” event was scheduled for Sunday at his church, which is also a polling place. But the Democratic Party canceled the event because of the threats against polling places, he said.

Cousin said he’s not worried about the threats, though he still finds them disturbing.

“I think it’s people just hiding behind computers, with the ability to just put something out there and then not have to take any ownership of it, to create (voter) suppression,” he said.

Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who presides over 534 AME churches in Georgia, said he’s sent warnings to churches across the state. He cited the election threats and the president’s call for protests on Wednesday, when Congress is set to confirm Biden’s victory.

“I think this is a very dangerous environment,” Jackson said. “You have the president himself fanning this stuff. I’m very concerned.”

Staff writer Mark Niesse contributed to this article.

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