Breaking News
More () »

FBI warns election workers to be cautious: 'Nationwide, we've reviewed over 1000 threats, or potential threats'

Special Agent William Kurtz says since the last election cycle, he's seen a significant uptick in voters contacting officials through email and social media.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With the midterm election just days away, the FBI is urging election officials and poll workers to be aware of any potential threats.

FBI Louisville Special Agent William Kurtz -- based in Bowling Green but oversees election crime investigations across Kentucky -- says since the last election cycle, authorities have seen a significant uptick in voters contacting officials directly.

"Nationwide, we've reviewed over 1000 threats, or potential threats, that have come in from across the country," he said.

And while Kurtz tells WHAS11 that Kentucky mostly has been spared so far, the state's not immune.

"We've had one or two here and there, and by and large they are emails or social media posts directed at specific officials or specific offices -- for example a county clerk," he said.

Kurtz says these interactions include state, county, and in some cases even the poll workers. He says sometimes they're venting, which is within their rights. 

Other times, things reportedly escalate.

"All the way up to very specific graphic threats of harm or violence directed at officials' families or the officials themselves," he said.

Federal authorities say they're working to be proactive.

In Summer 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI created the Threats to Election Workers Task Force, specifically to look into reports of danger. Kurtz says they talk with local law enforcement agencies and clerks' offices, highlighting trends they need to be aware of and ways to protect themselves.

Despite the troubling nationwide trend, Sherlonda and Michael Gray continue to keep their eyes forward, doing their civic duty to ensure the voting process goes smoothly over in Oldham County. They've volunteered their time as poll workers for nearly a decade.

"It's something that's just been engrained in us since we were kids," Michael said. "We're a group of Democrats, Republicans, Independents -- we all work extremely well together to make sure that everyone who comes through that door feels safe."

Sherlonda says their polling locations haven't picked up on any issues, which they're thankful for.

"I know the times are a little tense right now, but we've never had any indication of anything going wrong," she said.  

They tell us they're looking forward to volunteering throughout the in-person early voting period: Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

So far, the Jefferson County Clerk's Office (JCCO) says it's not aware of any threatening emails or phone calls made to their employees.

Communications Director Erran Huber says the 'magic' number of poll workers needed on Election Day is 2,300. He said they've trained more than 2,400 of them, putting them where they need to be next week.

Kurtz says like in many cases, if you see something, say something. They're encouraging the public to report information concerning suspicious or criminal activity to your local FBI field office.

Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the WHAS11 News app now. For Apple or Android users.

Have a news tip? Email assign@whas11.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Before You Leave, Check This Out