KINGMAN – This can be a big one either way we look at it.
Election Day on a day crammed between a deeply politically and ideologically divided country (and state) and growing tensions between the political parties, is the possibility of voter intimidation growing more likely.
The magic number for Nov. 8: Seventy-Five.
Seventy-five feet – about 20 feet shorter than a semi-truck – is the distance where no electioneering, photographs or outright harassment of voters or poll workers will be tolerated.
Guns are also a huge no-no. Not within 75 feet and open carry is highly discouraged as to further intimidate voters. Leave them in the car/truck.
But it’s been happening already by groups in Yavapai and Maricopa counties.
As of Oct. 24, the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office sent additional reports of potential voter intimidation near ballot drop boxes to law enforcement, bringing the total number of referrals to date to six. The office also referred a report of election worker harassment to law enforcement over the weekend. Those complaints have been referred to the Department of Justice and Arizona Attorney General’s Office for further investigation.
Incidents in Yavapai County are linked to off-shoot groups of extremist wings of the Oath Keepers, a group that also had an active role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks on the U.S. Capitol Building.
‘Operation: Dropbox’ is the title three groups — the Arizona chapter of the Oath Keepers, the Yavapai County-based Lions of Liberty and Clean Elections USA – have used in an effort to monitor ballot drop boxes for potentially fraudulent activity in Yavapai County.
Two federal lawsuits have been filed over the last week to stop extremist groups from surveilling drop boxes in Maricopa and Yavapai Counties.
In an Oct. 29 article on NPR, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi on Friday refused to bar a group calling itself Clean Elections USA from monitoring outdoor ballot boxes in Arizona’s largest county where watchers have shown up armed and in ballistic vests, saying to do so could violate the monitors’ constitutional rights.
MOHAVE COUNTY IS NOT IN THE MIX, YET.
Allen Tempert, Mohave County Elections Director, answered a few questions on the topic.
The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has a link that informs the public on what is and isn’t permitted near polling sites during election season.
Tempert localized the situation in Mohave County and said that Mohave County follows Arizona Secretary of State’s Office protocol.
He’s heard of no voter intimidation at polling sites and would not speculate on what forms of intimidation might make a presence.
The Mohave County Elections Office doesn’t keep track of suspected or actual intimidation incidents but will notify the proper law enforcement entity should a situation call for it.
Tempert said the elections office does have a threat liaison officer appointed by the Mohave County Sherriff’s Office assigned for such situations.
“(The officer) has been training in election issues,” Tempert said. “We or the poll site workers will contact the appropriate law enforcement authorities in the event of reported voter intimidation.”
Those gas-guzzling pick-up truck flag islands flaunting the flags of their favorite former president all while bemoaning and degrading the current president are permitted outside the 75-foot barrier. It is considered electioneering and also protected under the First Amendment so long as they don’t create a barrier to the voting booths.
The media also has rights and responsibilities.
Reporters are not allowed to be taking pictures or interviewing voters or poll workers within 75 feet of the polling station. They can, however, do the same outside the barrier. Press credentials are preferred but many freelancers and stringers do not have a press pass.
Poll workers would be the first line of defense and could be the main target of harassment.
Susan Sheets, Mohave County Election Specialist with the Elections Department weighed in.
Poll workers can be Republican, Democrat or Independent. They are not required to reveal their party affiliation. They are also restricted from wearing clothing or anything else that denotes favoritism toward a candidate or political party.
Can or do poll workers identify their political affiliations?
“We try to keep the polling sites evenly matched,” Sheets said.
Poll workers can wear patriotic drab (An American Flag T-shirt or hat for example) but nothing political. Solid colors that might subtly denote a political party aren’t necessarily prohibited, but rather highly discouraged.
“We try to stay away from all red or all blue,” said Sheets.
Poll workers have to be a registered voter and that’s how the county tries to keep the sites even. Workers are not required to reveal their affiliation at the voting site.
“The workers are to be politically neutral,” Sheets said. “They’re there to assist the voter.”
The county elections office will have plenty of elections employees handling the phones.
There have been no threats.
“We’re lucky in Mohave County,” Sheets said. “We haven’t had any issues like in Maricopa.”
The Mohave County Elections Department hired almost 400 poll workers for the mid-term elections. Friday was the last training day for poll workers.
Poll observers are designated by political party and not Mohave County.
CAMPAIGN SIGNS. A TARGET OF THE POLITICALLY IRATE
Those pesky signs we see every election season tend to be a quick and easy target for teenagers sneaking out of the house late at night and the ideologically distressed voter.
Robin Ingalls, a Democrat, lives downtown and has had numerous campaign signs supporting Democrat candidates, but took them down out of fear and even verbal harassment.
She’s been verbally harassed on numerous occasions. Her Democrat signs are a target for the majority of Republican neighbors.
“I don’t feel safe in my own neighborhood,” she said. “Because I’m a Democrat?”
Vandalizing or stealing political signs is a Class 2 Misdemeanor that can land an offender a $750 fine and up to four months in jail. Thieves and vandals would also have to pay up for any signs tampered with.
Kingman Police highlight voting locations each election season to ensure officers are highly visible according to KPD Chief Rusty Cooper.
“We haven’t received reports of voter harassment or poll tampering,” he said. “However, we are aware of the increase in the risk of violence and harassment on a state and national level.”
KPD has no reason to suspect that any threats or intimidation will occur in our area, but if anyone sees anything unusual or suspicious, they are urged to contact police immediately.
“If you see something, say something!”
“We are committed to ensuring that everyone will be safe and feel confident when voting this year,” Cooper said.
He added there have been no significant reports of damage to campaign signs.
“This is something we pay attention to each year,” he said.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office is keeping their eyes open, too.
“After speaking with the lieutenants of the different districts, we have not been made aware of any campaign sign damage,” said an MCSO spokeswoman.
Deputies will be patrolling through the polling sites on Election Day as well as retrieving ballot boxes from polling sites in the county and delivering them to the election’s office on Election Day.
Republicans, for the most part, own Mohave County politics.
Mohave County polling sites do not have drop boxes open to public observation.
There is an early voting drop site beside the Katherine Heidenreich Adult Center.
There are drop boxes at the Mohave County Administration Building: One at the security desk as you walk in and one at the voter registration office on the second floor.
Drop your ballot. Don’t harass people doing the same.
Pat Shaner, Vice Chair of the Mohave County Republican Central Committee, has, seen and told his fellow voters not to be a disturbance at voting booths on Tuesday.
“We are trained not to do that,” he said.
He’s aware of the situations in Maricopa and Yavapai Counties.
There are no open ballot boxes in Mohave County. There are early drop sites.
There are no people camping out to monitor voting booths.
Poll workers – of any party – are trained not to interfere with the election process.
Black or blue. Those are the colors needed to pill in a bubble on a ballot.
You don’t have to vote on every candidate or proposition either.
Vote for one candidate. Vote for one proposition. Stick it in the box. You did your part.
Whether you voted early with mail-in ballots, plan to cut out of work early to fill it out or wait in line, your vote will count.
No intimidation. No electioneering. No harassment.
It’s the law.
$750 is a good chunk of change.
“We can’t talk to anybody, we just watch,” Sheets said.
Poll observers get a day of training on what and how to deal with potential problems.
The media also has limits.
Seventy five is the limit. No interviews or pics in that zone.
Mohave County doesn’t have outside drop boxes. There are two at the administration building at 700 W. Beale St. There is also an early voting site next to the Katherine Heidenreich Adult Center at 1776 Airway Ave.
Friday, Nov. 4. was the last day for early voting.
Tuesday, Nov. 8 is Election Day. It’s gonna’ be a long day.
For a guide on voter intimidation and how to report incidents, visit this link at the Arizona Secretary of State’s website https://azsos.gov/elections/about-elections/guidance-voting-location-conduct. Should the need arise, call 1-877-THE VOTE to contact their office to follow up with county election officials who can notify federal, state and local law enforcement if necessary.