By Ruby Chavez and Anika Khubchandani
ST. LOUIS/PHILADELPHIA/SACRAMENTO REGION – Cities across the nation – including the Sacramento region, New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles – are preparing for the worst on Election Day.
Retailers have boarded up their shop doors and windows in anticipation of election unrest. In Sacramento, downtown stores, hotels and government buildings were putting plywood over exterior windows.
However, officials from all over the U.S. appear to be attempting to keep their communities calm and “ensure a safe, free election day.”
For example, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has declared her office, along with the City Board of Elections, will provide a hotline for voters to immediately call if they come across intimidation and/or harassment at the polls on election day.
Since her office is mainly worried about voters having their credentials challenged at the polls, Gardner stresses that “challengers cannot approach voters directly to request information or identification or invade their privacy.”
While challengers are allowed to contest voter eligibility under Missouri law, they can only raise the issue with an official poll worker who is authorized to make a determination about voting eligibility. Any voter must be given an affidavit ballot if their voting eligibility cannot be promptly verified at a polling location.
Especially due to the critical nature and importance of this election, Gardner emphasizes that both “Missouri and federal law make it illegal to threaten” and intimidate anyone from voting. Considering “a free and fair election is the foundation of our democracy,” she maintains that the Circuit Attorney’s office will launch an investigation into any sort of illegal activity.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is another agency committed to ensuring a safe and free election day. District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that his office will be working in conjunction with the City Commissioners and Police Department to scrutinize instances of voter intimidation and harassment.
Never before has the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Election Task Force (ETF) been fully staffed for a whole month prior to the election and they will continue to work several weeks after November 3.
Krasner does not anticipate any interference, but he makes it clear that “anyone intending to steal Philadelphians’ votes by breaking the law to disrupt a fair and free election could find themselves in a jail cell, facing criminal charges and a Philadelphia jury wondering why you thought it was okay to steal their votes.”
The DA’s office has also established a local hotline for addressing “criminal attempts to interfere with or influence voting.”
Even beyond Election Day, the ETF will remain active until all election materials are reviewed and certified which could take up to three weeks due to the delay associated with mail-in ballots, such as military and overseas ballots, and the tabulation of voting machine totals.
Andrew Wellbrock, assistant district attorney and head of the Philadelphia ETF, reassures Philadelphia voters that “no electioneering can take place within 10 feet of entrance to a polling place,” adding that “only certified poll watchers who live in Philadelphia, election board workers, judges of elections, and voters may enter a polling place.”
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