A Gainesville voter shared a threatening email purportedly from The Proud Boys. It’s subject line read: “Vote for Trump or else!”
Equality Florida widely shared the email with Florida media Tuesday evening, shortly after it was forwarded to the organization. The news comes two weeks before the Nov. 3 election, in which Florida is considered a must-win state for President Donald Trump.
“This is an outrageous case of voter intimidation just 14 days before the most consequential Presidential election of our lifetimes,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida executive director.
“The Proud Boys are among a cohort of dangerous, violent extremist groups who are working overtime to intimidate voters and depress turnout. We’re calling on federal officials to conduct a swift and thorough investigation, identify the source of this intimidation and put a stop to it.”
Notably, FBI and U.S. intelligence now believe Iran to be behind the emails, and say that nation and Russia both have access to U.S. voter files. Democratic voters around Florida and other swing states have seen emails in critical battleground areas.
The advocacy group said the voter was LGBTQ.
The name of the voter was redacted, but the email otherwise read in full: “[Voter name] we are in possession of all your information You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have 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. [voter address] good luck.”
Similar emails were also received by voters in Brevard County, according to Florida Today. And The Washington Post reports voters in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Alaska also received messages supposedly from Proud Boys.
Notably, all Florida voters’ names, party registration and provided addresses can be publicly accessed by anyone through the Division of Elections or local Supervisor of Elections. How a voter casts their vote, however, remains secret and not subject to public records law. The addresses in emails provided appear to come from 2018 voter rolls.
The email appeared to come from an address associated with officialproudboys.com, but that directs to a dead URL, defunct since the group was dropped by a webhost.
Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys and the Florida state director of Latinos for Trump, denied involvement to the Washington Post. He said after being dropped by Google Cloud, the domain tied the emails has not been in regular use. “Two weeks ago I believe we had Google Cloud services drop us from their platform, so then we initiated a url transfer, which is still in process,” he told the newspaper. “We kind of just never used it.”
A WhoIs search shows the domain was first registered in 2017 with Ionos, but its registration was changed on Monday night. A contact email now goes to the web host’s email for reporting abuse.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and Supervisor of Elections issued a joint statement.
“In the email, the sender claims to have personal information and directs the receiver how to vote or there will be consequences,” the statement reads. “The email appears to be a scam and we will be initiating an investigation into the source of the email along with assistance from our partners on the federal level.”
CBS News looked at data for dozens of similar messages and found source code indicating the emails were sent through servers located in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Estonia. Technology experts told the outlet most likely the originator passed the emails through vulnerable servers in those nations to mask where the messages came from.
Smith said if the email does have any connection to the Proud Boys group, there should be consequences.
“If these emails did originate from the Proud Boys, it would amount to a grave attack on democracy by one of the most prominent hate groups in the country with the goal of helping secure Donald Trump’s re-election,” Smith said.
“This moment calls for all of us to stand tall in the face of hate, denounce these attempts at intimidation, and demand justice for those trying to exercise the most fundamental right in our country.”