How to prevent electoral violence at home

How to prevent electoral violence at home

I have spent more than three decades covering conflict as either a journalist, State Department official or senior executive at the United States Institute of Peace. Global conflict does not scare me. But America in this election season does. People are on edge. Voters are being texted, e-mailed, coaxed and cajoled. A pandemic has sickened and killed thousands, spreading viral particles and understandable fear and panic. Desperate people do desperate things, and my biggest concern is electoral violence — something I have always associated with overseas conflicts. Election-related violence affects more than 20 percent of elections worldwide, with the ferocity varying from a few incidents of intimidation and destruction of property to large-scale deaths and mass population displacements. It is why we often have international observers present at elections. The notion of heavily armed extremists hell-bent on disrupting our democracy should keep all of us awake at night. Think about the notion of an FBI agent saying last week that some of those charged in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also discussed “taking” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. The disturbing allegations about politically motivated violence surfaced during a day-long court hearing over what law enforcement officials say was a plan to abduct Michigan’s highest elected official and either leave her on a boat in the middle of a lake or put her “on trial” before a self-styled militia. We cannot dismiss rumors of violence as just one-offs. A briefing by the non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations says […]

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