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Iran behind intimidating messages threatening voters, FBI says

(Tony Zyber/ABC12)
Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 9:55 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaskans from throughout the state have received threatening emails and social media messages attempting to pressure voters to cast their vote in favor of President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

Wednesday, the FBI held a press conference to address the emails and to announce that they have concluded that Iran and Russia have taken action to influence voters' decisions relating to the election.

Some voter registration information was obtained by Iran, then separately by Russia. The FBI suspects Iran specifically was behind the intimidating emails sent to many voters across the nation.

FBI officials called the countries' actions “desperate attempts by desperate adversaries" and assured the public that the election systems are secure. They say email recipients should not be alarmed and are asking recipients not to share the email.

The aggressive approach is illegal and voters who have received messages of this kind are asked to report it to their local police immediately as state and local police have primary jurisdiction over polling places.

The emails, posted to social media, listed the recipient’s first and last name saying, “we are in possession of all your information (email, address, telephone everything). You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure.”

The post goes on to say the voter should change their party affiliation to Republican and “take this seriously if I were you."

Earlier this month, the FBI’s Anchorage Field Office provided public guidance on election crimes and security.

“Every American citizen should have the right to vote in a fair and honest election, and without interference or discrimination,” said Robert Britt, a special agent in charge of the FBI Anchorage Field Office in the press release. “Violating federal election laws in Alaska will not be tolerated, and the FBI is committed to supporting our election security counterparts and protecting Alaskans' constitutional rights throughout the election season.”

In a press release last week, United States Attorney Bryan Schroder said, "Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud. The Department of Justice will always act appropriately to protect the integrity of the election process.”

Federal law protects against such crimes as intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. It also contains special protections for the rights of voters and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them.

The FBI says they will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on Election Day. The local FBI field office can be reached by the public at (907) 276-4441.

Voters can also report a federal election crime by sending a tip to the FBI online.

The intimidating emails have been reported by voters in other parts of the country including Florida residents.

Malia Barto, Cheyenne Mathews and Scott Gross contributed to this report.

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