Election Officials Are Planning for Conflict They Hope Won’t Materialize

Election Officials Are Planning for Conflict They Hope Won’t Materialize

Election officials and voting rights groups across the country are preparing to respond to unrest at the polls even though it’s unclear how real the threat of Election Day violence or armed intimidation may be. Authorities emphasize that they are not responding to any specific threats of violence at polling places — and that they’re concerned about the potential for scaring off voters. But there is more than enough reason to be on alert. In recent months, armed militia groups and vigilantes have shown up at Black Lives Matter marches and numerous armed protesters have descended on state capitols to oppose COVID-19 restrictions. The general public is anxious about the divisive political climate and gun sales have been surging. President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud also haven’t helped. We consulted experts and took stock of the legal and practical landscape in several swing states. Assessing the risks There’s a widespread sense that the risk of Election Day violence is much greater this year, although researchers say there’s little hard evidence to back up the collective anxiety. Online, there are few indications that extremist groups have plans to show up at polling stations or insert themselves into the democratic process. “I am not seeing very much discussion about election poll watching at all,” said Megan Squire, a researcher at Elon University who tracks extremists online. “Maybe they don’t want to talk about it this far out, or maybe they’ll make the decision at the last minute. But […]

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