Election Conspiracy Theorists Focused On One Man In Colorado. His Life Will Never Be The Same
Update Dec. 22: Eric Coomer has filed a defamation suit against the Trump campaign and others. Our original story continues below.
Eric Coomer has been living in hiding since one week after the 2020 presidential election ended.
He’s director of product strategy and security for Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems, which has found itself at the center of numerous conspiracy theories about election theft. President Donald Trump has falsely claimed that Dominion machines fraudulently switched votes to President-elect Joe Biden. And some of Trump's supporters have come to focus on Coomer as the supposed mastermind behind a plot to steal the election.
“I actually am in fear for my safety,” Coomer said recently, speaking by video chat from a secret location. “I'm in fear for my family’s safety. These are real, tangible things coming out of these baseless accusations.”
In addition to his own information, he said the personal addresses of everyone from his parents and siblings to his ex-girlfriends have been posted online. Some have also received threatening letters.
“I've been threatened more times than I could even count. Whether it's the standard online trolls, voicemails that are left almost on a daily basis, being called a traitor to this country. I can't even begin to describe what effect this has had on my life,” he said.
Dominion provides election equipment and software to 28 states, including the majority of the equipment used in the swing states on which Trump has focused most of his post-election ire. The company gamed out all sorts of election problem scenarios, but it wasn’t on anyone’s radar that it — and its employees — could become the target of threats.
While Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud have been a near constant presence in recent weeks, Coomer said the first threat directed at him personally took him by surprise. It came five days after the election.
The accusation started with a conservative activist in Douglas County, Joe Oltmann. He claimed on his podcast that he’d infiltrated a call with Denver area “Antifa” members that included a man identified as “Eric from Dominion.”
“They're talking on this call and he responds, and I'm paraphrasing this, right….. ‘Don't worry about the election. Trump is not going to win. I made effing sure of that. Ha ha.’ And everyone's like, ‘Yeah.’ And then somebody else responds ‘effing right,’” said Oltmann.
Coomer said that conversation never took place and he has no association with left wing groups. But once the podcast was out there, he immediately knew things would blow up.
“The minute I saw it, it left a big pit in my stomach.”
After that podcast went out, the threats quickly arrived. An online search turns up segments on the pro-Trump outlets Newsmax and One America News Network, discussing the allegations, as well as people accusing Coomer of treason and calling for him to be publicly executed.
“God is at the wheel, but we are the warriors that must do the work of men to repel evil,” said one of numerous posts on the conservative social media site, Parler. “Where is Eric?” asked another poster. A Youtube commenter said, “this guy clearly hates America and Trump and anyone who supports it.”
Within days, it wasn’t safe for Coomer to remain in the Colorado home he’d designed and built. Instead, he left for a secure, hidden location. And he isn’t the only one. A spokeswoman for Dominion said other employees have also gone to more secure locations, been threatened and digitally stalked.
On Nov. 21, a group protested in front of Dominion’s Denver headquarters, waving American flags and signs saying "fraud equals arrests." Social media posts from the event tagged the far right group the Proud Boys. No one is currently working out of the building.
The company has started taking action against the public figures who have pushed some of these conspiracy theories, including lawyer Sidney Powell. Smartmatic, a competitor of Dominion’s that has also been the subject of wild rumors, has demanded that numerous news networks take back their allegations against it. Over the weekend, Fox News appeared to answer that demand with a segment debunking some claims.
The focus on Dominion has some on the right raising questions about Colorado’s election system. Nearly every county in the state uses Dominion’s equipment. It was the subject of an election integrity hearing at the state Capitol at the request of some GOP state lawmakers.
At that hearing, and in other forums, Colorado election officials from both parties have tried to put to rest conspiracy theories about the voting system. The post-election furor, though, has brought unprecedented attention to the workers who usually operate in the background. Across the country, officials have faced threats and harassment since the election.
“We're not receiving, or at least not to my knowledge, we're not receiving the same level of threats as Eric (Coomer),” said Republican Weld County clerk and recorder, Carly Koppes, who is also the incoming president of the Colorado County Clerks Association.
Koppes has seen a lot of anger over the presidential election. More than six weeks after Trump lost the state by a wide margin, she said she still spends about two hours each day on the phone with people upset about the result.
“We definitely have had some phone calls where people have started out with profanities and have called me some lovely names,” Koppes said. “I just have to remember that I am the professional.”
She is trying to look on the bright side, and see the situation as a chance to explain why people should trust Colorado's safeguards and pioneering election audits.
For Eric Coomer, though, there’s no silver lining. He said his life is forever changed. Coomer’s top goal right now is pretty simple: He hopes one day it’ll be safe to return home. But he has no idea if that will ever be possible.
“Some of the threats that I've gotten have made very clear that these actors are in it for the long haul. The wishes are that I forever have to look over my shoulder. And I probably will.”
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to make it clear that Coomer denies Oltmann's allegations, and to correct Oltmann's county of residence.
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