BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — As thousands of people in Central Florida decide who they want to vote for in the presidential election, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections said someone is trying to make that decision for them.
Officials in both counties said people have received threatening emails, telling them to vote for President Donald Trump.
The person sending the emails claims to be with the “Proud Boys” organization, but Sheriff Wayne Ivey said there’s no proof of that, reporting that the email was sent from outside the U.S.
Ivey said the email is not a valid threat.
The email was addressed to the voter and starts off by saying the group had all the voter’s information and that the voter is a registered Democrat.
The email threatens “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.”
To avoid any trouble, voters were to change their party affiliation to Republican.
To further intimidate, the email included the voter’s address and ended with “good luck.”
Chris Beattie was among the registered Brevard County Democrats that found the email in their inbox.
“My first reaction was a bit of fright it’s a very threatening worded email,” he said. “They have your information it uses your name, it uses your home address and that kind of makes your skin crawl a little bit.”
In Florida, your party affiliation, your address and your email, if you provide it, are all public record.
The Brevard County Supervisor of Elections told the Sheriff’s Office about the emails.
“Please do not allow this or any other action by anyone to intimidate or dissuade you from your right as an American to cast your ballot for the candidate of your choosing,” Ivey said.
Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart is asking anyone who received the message to forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org
She said the department is collecting the information so it can be reported to the Florida Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI as voter intimidation is a crime under both Florida and Federal law.
Read her full statement below:
"I want to assure our county voters that we are taking every step necessary to ensure your vote counts in this election. First of all, certain voter information is a public record. From my research, it seems the publicly available information such as name, address, party affiliation and sample ballot email address have been used to personalize this email. The email was only sent to registered Democrats in Florida, although I have seen news reports that similar emails have been sent in other states as well. We maintain your secret ballot as required by the US Constitution. No one knows how you vote. Ironically, the email was sent to voters who have already voted early or by mail.
“Please do not let this type of behavior discourage you from voting for your candidate of choice. This such an important election and unfortunately these scammers are using public information to attack voter confidence in the voting process. I also hope this incident will be enough to convince the Florida Legislature that voter information should be exempt from public records.”
Below is a sample of the email:
“...we are in possession of all your information. You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure. You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you.”
A local chapter of of “Proud Boys” said they did not send intimidating emails.
“Neither this chapter nor any chapter in the organization has anything to do with that. It’s an obvious smear campaign. Only a fool would ever commit a felony and then leave his calling card to take credit for it.”
Anyone in Brevard County who has received the email is asked to contact the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office at 321-633-7162.
The FBI released the following statement on the emails:
"Though the FBI’s standard practice is to neither confirm nor deny any investigation, we take all election-related threats seriously, whether it is vote fraud, voter suppression, or threats from cyber or foreign influence actors. We’re committed to supporting our election security partners in Florida and protecting our communities as Americans exercise their right to vote.
Help from the public is also vital to our effort. We encourage members of the public to remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious, election-related activity to their local FBI field office or online at tips.fbi.gov.
To learn more about federal election crimes visit www.fbi.gov/elections.
For tips and best practices to protect digital devices, social media accounts, private information and more, visit www.fbi.gov/protectedvoices."
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