Fears of violence and voter intimidation grow as Election Day draws closer: reports

Fears of violence and voter intimidation grow as Election Day draws closer: reports
Photo via Screengrab.

The 2020 presidential election will go down in history as one that was even more volatile than the 1968 election, and many Americans have been expressing fears that violence and voter intimidation will occur on Election Day. That fear is addressed in new articles by the Washington Post, Time and USA Today.

Journalist Mark Berman, in the Post, reports that law enforcement are preparing for the worst.

"Tens of millions of Americans have cast ballots at early-voting sites, and tensions and accusations of voter intimidation have already flared up during this process," Berman explains. "Many Americans still plan to turn out on Election Day; so, law enforcement officials have conducted drills involving multiple agencies to try to game out what could happen. Police officials in multiple cities stressed that they have no information about specific threats relating to the election, but are instead preparing to make sure they are ready."

Andrew Walsh, a deputy chief for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told the Post, "I don't think we've seen anything like this in modern times…. When you look at previous elections, there's always been the concern when you have large crowds…. We know (that) can be a target for someone who has an agenda."

David Brown, a superintendent for the Chicago Police Department, told the Post, "We are all in conversations with our counterparts across the country about what we might expect. But everything is uncertain, and so, we're trying as best we can to anticipate any hazard that might happen." And Washington D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham noted, "It is widely believed that there will be civil unrest after the November election regardless of who wins."

Reporter Melissa Chan, in Time, reports that police departments around the U.S. expect to be on high alert on Election Day.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based think tank the Police Executive Research Forum, told Time, "It's fair to say the police are preparing in ways they never would have had to for Election Day. This year is unlike any other year."

According to Chan, "The presence of militia groups at polls could pose real safety concerns in light of a new Amnesty International report that said U.S. law enforcement failed to protect peaceful protesters from violent attacks by armed vigilante groups and counterprotesters in nearly 200 cases from May to September. The report, released Friday, said law enforcement often neglected to deploy an adequate amount of trained officers, separate or deescalate tensions between opposing groups and often harmed peaceful protesters while dealing with violent ones."

In USA Today, journalist Trevor Hughes addresses fears that far-right extremists will resort to acts of voter intimidation on Election Day — and that Black voters will be among their targets.

The NAACP's Stephanie Owens told USA Today, "The symbolism of who you're supporting is a very large component of our election tradition, but there is almost nothing traditional about this election. People are already being targeted based on the candidates they are supporting."

The Rev. Carl Day, a Philadelphia-based pastor and liberal/progressive activist, has been warning the Black community that they could be targeted for voter intimidation. Day told USA Today, "When the president of the United States seems like he's inciting a demographic of people to be on standby and he's saying he might not leave office, it brings legitimate fears to people. It's in a lot of conversations in a lot of rooms I'm in."

Carolyn Gallaher, a professor at American University's School of International Service in Washington, D.C., told USA Today, "Everyone I know is concerned both about voter intimidation at the polls and potential violence as we get results from the election — and sort of what that might look like not just around the election, but between the election and the inauguration."

Gallagher fears that the far right will resort to violence whether Trump wins reelection or is defeated by former Vice President Joe Biden. The American University professor told USA Today, "The violence will occur either way. If Biden wins, it will be an excuse to try to delegitimize the results and to go after perceived enemies on the left — and of course, that means labeling pretty much anyone that you disagree with Antifa. But I worry, too, if Trump wins, this will be a signal to these far-right groups that have supported him — extremist groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, other groups like this — that they will see this is like open season to go after people that have been opponents of Trump."
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