Last month, Michigan voters rendered their verdict on Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, sending her back to Lansing for a second term to oversee the state's elections. She comfortably defeated her Donald Trump-backed opponent by 14 percentage points.
And yet, Benson told CBS News, threats from election deniers that started after the 2020 election have not stopped.
"It still is going. I mean, it ebbs and flows. Often times when the former president speaks or says something or levies an accusation, there's an uptick," Benson said, adding that people still show up to her office in groups from time to time.
"It's exhausting. And it's exhausting because I have so much faith and knowledge that our elections are secure. And that's the heartbreaking part of it," Benson said. She blamed "lies and misinformation" for mobilizing bad actors.
Benson and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger joined CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for this week's episode of "The Takeout," which was recorded at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, Fla.
Raffensperger, a Republican, also won reelection this fall, two years after then-President Trump lobbied him to "find 11,780 votes" in Georgia in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Raffensperger soon faced a barrage of death threats. Someone broke into his daughter-in-law's house. His wife Tricia received text messages threatening sexual violence.
Two years on, Raffensperger told Garrett those sorts of threats have tapered off. Still, he said, "you try not to let your guard down."
Raffensperger attributes the anger and division in the country to economic disparity and grievance politics. "When we work on, you know, improving everyone's economic lifeboat, then this will dissipate. But right now, we're going through some very challenging seas and people are stressed," Raffensperger said.
In 2022, midterm voters rejected some of the highest-profile elections deniers, but of the 308 Republican candidates for statewide or federal office who raised doubts about the validity of the 2020 presidential election, 188 won their races.
Benson predicted it would take a "multiyear effort" to stamp out those unfounded claims. "What 2022 showed is two things. One, that voters are willing to step up and fight for their democracy and vote accordingly when they understand the rights and the freedoms that are on the ballot…It also showed that we will have more people in 2024 on the field, so to speak, defending our democracy — more secretaries of state who now will professionally but also potentially aggressively defend the results of the election," Benson said.
Raffensperger views the 2022 election as a referendum on denialism. "My big takeaway is candidate quality really matters and I think serious times require serious candidates. And so I think in 2024, hopefully there'll be a stronger look for candidates that really speak to the true issues that voters are facing."
Executive producer: Arden Farhi
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
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