SIERRA VISTA — There won’t be any Sheriff’s deputies or Sierra Vista officers milling about polling locations on Tuesday to ensure that voters are not intimidated by anyone trying to sway their vote.
Police presence at polling stations is discouraged by the Arizona Secretary of State because it could make some voters feel intimidated, the state website shows.
And while the American Civil Liberties Union says voter intimidation is rare, it does occur, and local law enforcement officials say they’ll respond if summoned by polling officials.
Sierra Vista Police Chief Adam Thrasher echoed the secretary of state’s rules.
“Based on guidance from the secretary of state and county elections officers we will not have officers stationed at the polling places; however, we will have officers available to respond to reports of issues as they arise” Thrasher said Friday.
“I am not aware of any reports made about voter intimidation during early voting, although we have taken numerous reports of damage to political signs.”
Ditto for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. Spokeswoman Carol Capas said deputies would not be present at polling locations, but would respond to any situations if needed.
So far, Cochise County elections officials have not heard of any voter intimidation toward people casting early ballots
“Everyone has been polite and patient so far,” said Cochise County Recorder David Stevens on Friday.
Of course, many polling places have political party observers. But according to state officials, they do exactly that — observe, and nothing more.
The secretary of state’s website says: “All political party observers are required to obtain credentials from their county political party chairperson and must present those credentials at their assigned voting location to observe inside the 75-foot limit. Generally, only one observer per political party is permitted in each voting location. A.R.S. § 16-515(B).”
“Observers shall not obstruct poll workers or the voting process, interact with voters, take videos or photos, act unprofessionally, or otherwise fail to obey the voting location inspector or rules established by the county. Party observers who violate these guidelines may have their credentials revoked by the county and be asked to leave.
“Non-credentialed observers, interest groups, candidates, and members of the media are not allowed within the 75-foot limit. Even if you intend to observe outside the 75-foot limit, observers shall not obstruct voting lines or the entrance to the voting location, or otherwise engage in any conduct that may have the effect of threatening, harassing, or intimidating voters.”
According to the ACLU, examples of intimidation may include:
• Aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, criminal record or other qualifications to vote in a manner intended to interfere with the voters’ rights.
• Falsely presenting oneself as an elections official.
• Spreading false information about voter requirements, such as an ability to speak English, or the need to present certain types of photo identification.
• Displaying false or misleading signs about voter fraud and the related criminal penalties.
• Other harassment, particularly toward non-English speakers and voters of color.
The ACLU also says if someone experiences voter intimidation, he or she should immediately report it to a poll worker.
You can also call The Election Protection Hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE or 888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español); or the U.S. Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline: 800-253-3931; TTY line 877-267-8971.