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Arizona voter intimidation case and other campaign threats mean sheriffs must act

Senior FBI officials recently warned of “unusual levels of threats” against election workers in seven states, including Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin. California saw the need to pass legislation last month aimed at protecting election workers. A Massachusetts man was arrested this summer for issuing a bomb threat to an election official.

While these developments have all been the exception to the norm, our democracy depends on free, fair and secure elections. Such threats and intimidation have no place in our democratic process, yet they are on the increase and isolated reports of voter intimidation arrive as early voting and mail-in voting begin.

Make no mistake: it will take a concerted effort to stem the rise of misinformation, threats, violence and intimidation plaguing our elections.

In our careers in a blue county and a red county on different sides of the country, we have never seen threats against election officials rise to such a level. Now more than ever, partnerships like ours are essential. Misinformation spread by people from all political walks of life has contributed to the current political environment and is having real consequences for hard-working local officials. It is essential that this does not affect the vote either.

As sheriffs and Americans, we have two important messages. First, to anyone threatening or harassing election officials or voters: stop. Second, to election officials, election workers, volunteers and voters: We are here for you.

In today’s environment, it might seem strange that a conservative Republican sheriff from a mountain state with a proud history of rugged individualism and a progressive Democratic New England sheriff who is the son of a electoral official have met on anything. It shouldn’t.

Ensuring that elections are free from violence, threats and intimidation is a non-partisan issue. We are united to uphold the rule of law, keep the peace and expose those who falsely claim electoral fraud or attempt to instill fear in those who disagree with them. Our origins may be different, but our faith in democracy is the same.

Countering these dangers is largely the responsibility of local law enforcement, which receives nearly 90% of threats reported by election officials, according to a recent survey by the Brennan Center for Justice. That’s why it’s essential that law enforcement and election officials work together. As we know all too well, threats can be a precursor to actual violence.

We recently took several simple steps to prepare for future elections, and we urge law enforcement agencies from coast to coast to do the same.

Start by meeting with your local counterparts, election officials and other stakeholders such as community groups to identify and resolve issues and build relationships. We personally visited our local election offices and observed existing safeguards of election administration, such as the review of signatures on absentee ballots by bipartisan teams.

Then, share information such as contact information, polling station addresses, historical instances of election worker intimidation, operating environments, and election administration details so that local law enforcement and officials voters can work together more effectively in the event of an incident.

Third, agree to work together regularly and define how you will engage when voting is in progress. During this period, you must also plan for the physical security of polling stations or election offices, the secure transportation of election materials, and the rules of engagement if voters are present.

Fourth, plan incident and crisis response based on various scenarios that may arise. Don’t neglect the communication aspect of this planning phase either.

Finally, practice these plans together through tabletop drills, drills, and emergency response procedures.

While law enforcement and election officials have distinct roles to play in protecting elections, we are all public servants. That’s why we both joined the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections, which brings together current and former sheriffs, police officers, state and local election officials, and experts in election administration to support policies and develop practical resources. that help communities work together to protect election workers. and voters. Our members span the ideological spectrum – Democrats, Republicans, Independents – but we are all Americans who want to restore confidence in our elections so that all voters feel safe.

Make no mistake: it will take a concerted effort to stem the rise of misinformation, threats, violence and intimidation plaguing our elections. None of us can do it alone. But if we work together, we can make the rule of law and public safety priorities to help ensure election security. We pledge to do our part and call on our colleagues in law enforcement and election administration to join us.


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