Man Charged Over Alleged Threats to ‘Hang’ Michigan Election Official

Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Michigan man has been charged after allegedly threatening to hang a local election official for “treason” during a vote recount last December, prosecutors said Monday.

Andrew Fred Hess, 37, was charged with a false report or threat of terrorism for the alleged remark during a vote recount for the November 2023 local elections. The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office said that while challenges in the ballot recount were being filed, Hess allegedly walked outside of the room and stated, “hang Joe for treason,” about Director of Elections Joe Rozell.

“We need dedicated, ethical public servants to conduct that process, and to do it transparently—we should invite public scrutiny,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said in a press release announcing the charges. “But there are individuals who seek to undermine the integrity of the election process by threatening and intimidating election workers and supervisors. Those threats don’t just impact our election workers, they put our democracy at risk, and they will not be tolerated.”

Rozell declined to comment, telling The Daily Beast that he had not read the details of the charge.

Hess faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $20,000 for the felony.

“This is a political prosecution designed to chill the free speech rights of private citizens who complain about government officials and who criticize the conduct of elections,” Hess’ lawyer, Robert Muise, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “This prosecution is a true threat to the First Amendment.”

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The charges against Hess mark the latest example of outrage aimed at election officials. After the 2020 presidential election, supporters of Donald Trump insisted the former president’s loss was the result of widespread voter fraud in battleground states, like Michigan.

Since then, nearly two dozen people have been arrested as part of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force—which was launched in 2021 in the face of a “significant increase in the threat of violence against Americans who administer free and fair elections,” according to a January 2021 memo.

In a January investigation concerning the alleged Dec. 15 threat against Rozell, the Detroit News spoke with Hess about his possible involvement. The alleged remark occurred during a Royal Oak ballot proposal recount that would allow voters to rank candidates for a given office instead of just choosing one option. Hess’ lawyer told the outlet he was allegedly concerned about broken seals on the ballot containers.

“I very regularly tell people the penalty for treason is hanging by the neck," Hess told the outlet. “If we're not willing to stand up to fight against people stealing our elections, we don't have a country anymore.”

In a Jan. 16 letter to prosecutors, Muise also argued that Hess’ alleged remark is protected under his First Amendment rights because “claiming that an election official who cheats on elections should be prosecuted for treason and punished accordingly is protected speech and not an actionable threat,” the Detroit News reported.

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