ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – Some research analysts on the front lines of this year’s election said there is always a risk of tension at the polls. It can come in the form of something known as voter intimidation. Researchers discussed this topic in a conference panel Friday afternoon, hosted by Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal agency that seeks to battle racial and social injustices.
So what exactly is voter intimidation? Panelists said it can range from outright violence, to misinformation that prevents people from voting. They said this particular election year has been polarizing, and they are keeping an eye on some states that may be more subject to voter intimidation or suppression.
For some parts of the country, even extremist and militia groups are a concern. That’s according to Cassie Miller, SPLC Senior Research Analyst for the Intelligence Project.
“Its been mostly sporadic, most of what we see is ad-hoc matter, small groups organized online and Facebook,” said Miller. “That’s what we can expect to see as we head towards Election Day.”
Miller said in those states where open-carry is allowed at the polls, if someone brings attention to their gun and uses it as a threat – report it immediately. “In the vast majority of states, it is not illegal to have a gun at a polling place but it is illegal to intimidate someone,” Miller said.
“Some states made it easier to vote because the pandemic, by expanding early voting, some states went in the opposite direction,” Nancy Abudu, SPLC Deputy Legal Director of Voting Rights, said
Panelists said voter suppression can take place when people face barriers to get to the polls.
Abudu said an example of this, is if a state asks voters to have a ballot be notarized – a task she says may be difficult for those trying to limit socialization during a pandemic.
Both Abudu and Miller said while it’s important to be vigilant, election day will most likely be safe.
For some local counties, Board of Elections commissioners say voter intimidation has not been an issue and is not expected on Election Day.
“We don’t anticipate it on Election Day, if for any reason something happens there is plan in place, local authorities are aware and monitor,” Becky Schroeder, BOE Commissioner for Livingston County, said.
BOE Commissioner of Wayne County John Zornow said there have been zero reports of intimidation or tension happening in Wayne County.
“We have worked hard making the process accessible for everybody,” Zornow said.
Some Monroe County political officials, like Harry Bronson, Jeremy Cooney and Jamie Romeo have recently come forward to express that they stand against any act of voter intimidation that may occur in the Rochester community.