What to expect at voting polls amid the threat of violence

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Office. Photo courtesy Ebony Houston

With the effects of the pandemic and what seemed to be instructions by President Donald Trump to “go into the polls and watch,” many are bracing themselves for potential violence and safety scares on election day.

Though many have made up in their minds that it would be safer to vote by mail-in ballot or participate in early voting, there is still a large number of registered voters who plan to physically show up to the polls on election day Nov. 3. Though there is still expected to be a large turnout of voters at the polls, this year’s election day comes with the fear of the integrity of votes, potential unrest at polls, and health risks due to COVID-19.

“Although Election Day is November 3rd, the FBI’s work in securing the election begins and continues, well beyond that date. As in previous election years, the FBI is committed to protecting the American public’s right to a fair and safe election by securing it. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, the FBI is particularly engaged in extensive preparations,” said Amanda Videll, FBI official of Jacksonville. “As always, we are working closely with our federal, state, and local partners so everyone involved with safeguarding the election has the information and resources necessary to respond in a timely manner to any violations that may arise.” 

The FBI will not interfere with the actual election process, so in case of true emergency or threat of violence, local officials are to be contacted first and the FBI will investigate the incident(s) thereafter. The FBI is still closely monitoring cyber threats, to reassure those who fear the disruption of votes, especially by foreign interference.

“Yes, I’m voting in person and I encourage who can do so as well. If it is of any importance to you that you get the candidate of your preference in office, you should want to make sure your vote gets counted by dropping your ballot into the box yourself or pressing submit yourself if your voting site has electronic voting,” said Charise Smyly, a Georgia citizen who plans to vote in person.

According to the Leon County Supervisor of Elections, there are currently 217,021 active registered voters to date. With a combination of intimidation from extremist groups and the COVID-19 diagnosis of Mr. Trump, many are just wanting to drop off ballots as soon as possible.

“There should be extra security and police presence at the polls, even though that could be a good or bad thing. There should also be a limit on how many people can be at the polls at one time to stop large groups from gathering and starting trouble. If there are smaller groups, voting will be safer for everyone,” said Kristen McClain-Cooper, a Jacksonville resident who plans to vote in person.

The voter’s safety is a priority for all departments working together for the election process and voters should know that they have a place at the polls, no matter their background or political preference.

“It is vital that the FBI, our law enforcement partners, and the public work together to protect our communities as Americans exercise their right to vote. We encourage members of the public to remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious, election-related activity to their local FBI field office or the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or online at www.tips.fbi.gov,” said Videll.