Jocelyn Benson: The terrifying moment armed people showed up at my home screaming falsehoods and obscenities about the election

By Opinion by Jocelyn Benson

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 threatened to withhold emergency federal funding for a flooded community in our state, following my decision to merely mail publicly available information to every registered voter in Michigan on how to vote from home in this year's elections. (He ultimately backpedaled and did not follow through.) Just like several of my Republican and Democrat colleagues in other states, I took this action because it was critical to ensure all voters had equal access to information on how to vote remotely in the midst of the pandemic. Voters across the state responded by voting early or absentee in higher numbers than ever before, but the attacks on our system of voting and the effort to falsely erode voters' confidence in their right to vote from home grew from there.

Since the polls closed over a month ago, the efforts to spread false information about the security and accuracy of our elections have become even more brazen and bizarre. Whether it is blatantly false press releases, purely political legislative hearings, bogus legal claims or vague affidavits that fail to allege any clear or cogent evidence of wrongdoing, those unhappy with the results of this election have perpetuated an unprecedented, dangerous and egregious campaign to erode the public's confidence in the results of one of the most secure, accessible and transparent elections in our state's history.

But the game is up. The truth -- and the results of this election -- are abundantly clear. It's time for everyone to call out this conspiracy campaign for what it is -- "incorrect and not credible" according to a local Republican-appointed judge -- and condemn those employing threats, harassment and bullying to further spread these falsehoods. And it's long past time for every single elected official and every leader with a platform to condemn these heinous acts, ultimately aimed at silencing and overturning the will of the more than 150 million United States citizens who cast ballots.

Our democracy is resilient. Those who guard and defend it remain undeterred. And we now need every leader, and every citizen, to join us in responding to these misguided attacks against the truth. At this moment in history, democracy requires us to summon the "strength of ten Grinches, plus two" and stand together in unity regardless of partisanship on behalf of all voters.

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