On CNN, Virginia election official describes how Trump’s Big Lie has led to “aggression” in Republican poll watchers, threats against election officials

Fairfax County registrar Scott Konopasek: “We've been in contact and coordinated with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security”

Video file

Citation From the November 1, 2021, edition of CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto

JIM SCIUTTO (CO-ANCHOR): So, in some of the numbers here, Republicans taking part as poll watchers outnumber Democrats two to one. Is it your sense that Trump's continuing Big Lie is pushing this? In effect, that people are going because they say, “Oh, something fishy is going on with the polls here, and by the way the last election was stolen?”

SCOTT KONOPASEK (GENERAL REGISTRAR, FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA): Right. I believe there's a direct line between the president's Big Lie and the motivation and the number of people who are participating as poll watchers this year. A lot of people have been seduced by that notion, and they are sincere people who are committed in their mind to make sure that it doesn't happen again — which really adds a level of energy and sometimes aggression in our interactions with them, than what I've ever had in 25 years in dealing with poll watchers.

SCIUTTO: I wonder, listen, it's not just something that's uncomfortable for people like you, because people like you have become the targets, sometimes of threats around the country. CNN has done a lot of stories about this. We've talked to people in that category. Are you concerned that you've become a target based on these lies?

KONOPASEK: Absolutely. Actually, just this morning I received about three dozen very personal attacking, trolling emails accusing me, pre-election, of fraud and even making specific allegations of what the fraud would be. That's the kind of language that we heard after last November's election, but I haven't heard specific allegations and threats to this degree prior to an election.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Do you — listen, those threats are things that sometimes sadly can turn into actual danger. What do you do when you get threats like that? Do you have channels to report that to police or others if they continue or they're made attached to any sort of threat of violence?

KONOPASEK: Sure. Actually, just a half-an-hour ago I was on a daily coordination call with the Fairfax County police liaison and a couple of police commanders. We've been in contact and coordinated with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. I'm a former military guy, and I just do my job and I don't let the threats or the potential danger get in the way. But it's unfortunate that I can draw comparisons to my current experience to my combat experience when I was in the Army.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, you’re saying that sort of -- it feels like a similar threat to some degree?

KONOPASEK: Yeah, the uncertainty, the fear for your safety. Do you change what you do, or do what you’re trained and been prepared to do? Do you execute the plan of the election that has been prepared with your team, as being implemented, or do you respond out of some kind of fear to the noise and things that are going on around? So that's kind of the comparison that I'm making, is that, you know, you still have to do your duty.