Election Workers Say Ballot Fraud Claims Led to Their Harassment, Threatening Messages

Georgia, Election, Ballot Count
Among other things, the lawsuit says the website and the Hofts conducted a "campaign of lies" that led to online and in-person harassment against the two election workers. Above, Election officials count the votes for Fulton County on January 6, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia. Megan Varner/Getty Images

Two election workers in Georgia said false claims made by a conservative media outlet that alleged the pair were involved in ballot fraud is the reason why they're being harassed and receiving threatening messages, the Associated Press reported.

The lawsuit was filed by Ruby Freeman and Wandrea "Shaye" Moss, a mother and daughter, who worked during the 2020 election, the AP stated. They claimed the website The Gateway Pundit knowingly posted false information accusing them of participating in ballot fraud that caused harassment and threats.

The lawsuit was filed against the website's owner, Jim Hoft, and his brother, Joe Hoft, who helped with the site. According to the lawsuit, the website published stories using Freeman's and Moss' names in stories when claiming Republican observers were asked to leave during election night so workers could count fraudulent ballots that were hidden elsewhere.

The lawsuit said Freeman had to leave her house and was relocated by the FBI because they said it wasn't safe for her to stay there after the threats she had received.

Prior to being relocated for two months, Freeman had people showing up at her house and received threatening text messages and phone calls, according to the lawsuit.

Moss also experienced people showing up because of the false claims. The lawsuit stated that strangers had shown up to her grandmother's house on two separate occasions and tried to enter to attempt a "citizens arrest" because she used to live there.

According to the lawsuit, Moss' teenage son had her previous phone number, and he received threatening messages as well.

The lawsuit says the use of their names in connection with the false allegation "have not only devastated their personal and professional reputations but instigated a deluge of intimidation, harassment, and threats that has forced them to change their phone numbers, delete their online accounts, and fear for their physical safety."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Georgia World Congress Center, Election
Two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman and Wandrea "Shaye" Moss, have filed a defamation lawsuit against a conservative website filed December 2, 2021. Above, Moss scans mail-in paper ballots at the Georgia World Congress Center during the Georgia primary elections in Atlanta on June 9, 2020. Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP Photo

Among other things, the lawsuit says the website and the Hofts conducted a "campaign of lies" that led to online and in-person harassment against the two women.

In response to a call to a cellphone number listed for Jim Hoft, the Associated Press received a text message saying, "Sorry, I can't talk now." No one responded to a voicemail or text message sent to that number. A working number for Joe Hoft could not be located. No one responded immediately to a request for comment sent through an online form on The Gateway Pundit's website.

Angered by his narrow loss in a traditionally Republican state, former President Donald Trump focused intense scrutiny on Georgia, making unproven claims that widespread fraud there led to his loss in the state.

A representative from Trump's legal team, Jacki Pick, spoke before a Georgia state Senate committee on December 3, 2020, and showed part of a surveillance video from the room where ballots were counted at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. She said Republican observers were asked to leave the room late on election night and that once they were gone, election workers pulled out and counted hidden, fraudulent ballots, the lawsuit says.

Pick did not name the election workers in the video "but said 'one of them had the name Ruby across her shirt somewhere,'" the lawsuit says. Later that day, The Gateway Pundit was the first outlet to publish Freeman's full name, and in a subsequent story it also identified Moss, the lawsuit says.

The allegation that "suitcases" of ballots were pulled from under tables away from the eyes of observers was almost immediately debunked. But it continues to circulate among supporters of the former president and others who say the election was marred by fraud.

The Gateway Pundit and the Hofts perpetuated the debunked narrative, publishing stories and promoting them on social media even after they were aware it had been disproven, the lawsuit says. Among other things, the suit says, their stories accused Freeman and Moss of conspiring to get observers out of a room where ballots were being counted, adding illegal ballots to the count and running the same ballots through scanners multiple times.

In a phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2, Trump pressed the Republican official to "find" votes for him and mentioned Freeman by name, calling her "a vote scammer, a professional vote scammer and hustler."

Freeman worked as a temporary election worker during the 2020 election, verifying signatures on absentee ballots and preparing them to be counted and processed. Moss has worked for the Fulton County elections department since 2012 and supervised the absentee ballot operation during last year's election.

Freeman had to abandon her pop-up clothing boutique because she had to close its social media accounts and couldn't attend events in person.

Moss used to enjoy the parts of her job that involved interacting with the public but now becomes anxious if they ask her name, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit filed in circuit court in St. Louis, where The Gateway Pundit is based, seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as legal costs. It also asks a judge to declare that the statements published by the website and the Hofts and mentioned in the suit are false and to order the false and defamatory statements removed from any website or social media accounts they control.

Georgia, Election, Ballot Count
Among other things, the lawsuit says the website and the Hofts conducted a "campaign of lies" that led to online and in-person harassment against the two election workers. Above, election officials count the votes for Fulton County on January 6, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia. Megan Varner/Getty Images