Police Officers Will Keep An Eye On Polling Sites On Election Day; No Specific Threat Cited
Police departments are prepared to deal with rowdy behavior or intimidation of voters on Election Day, but don’t expect officers to be at the polls unless they are needed.
Major Bobby Ledwell of Concord Police Department says voters should immediately notify election workers if they experience any issues while trying to vote. Ledwell says officers will be standing by to respond if they’re needed.
“We do have officers positioned in specific points in the city, where they will be responsible for nothing that day, but responding to any (election-related) calls that we would have,” Ledwell said. “As far as being inside, we will not be inside unless we get a call specifically for that.”
In Gaston County, Police Chief Joe Ramey says it’s up to chief judges at election sites to let the department know if officers are needed.
“We might do some drivebys, some special checks, to make sure there’s no major issues traffic-wise or parking-wise,” Ramey said. “But even then, we’d leave it up to the local election officials to contact us for any assistance.”
Rob Tufano of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police says officers on patrol will drive by polling places to make sure there aren’t any problems. Tufano says the department has a response plan in the event of large scale protests after the polls close Tuesday night and the days after.
“The department has not received any intelligence or information to indicate planned activity concerning organized mass gatherings or demonstrations following the election. The CMPD does have a strategic operations plan developed should circumstances warrant a response,” Tufano said.
According to network news reports, federal agencies are on alert for election interference from foreign adversaries attempting to disrupt or sway the elections. CNN is also reporting that some federal agents have been training on how to respond in the event of civil unrest.
In Charlotte, the spokesperson for the local FBI office says agents are working behind the scenes.
“Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity,” Shelley Lynch said.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management department says the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be activated for the elections.
“This is 2020. There has been a lot of stuff happening in 2020,” said Chief Robert Graham, deputy director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management.
Emergency officials say activating the EOC for elections is relatively new. They say they began discussions with the Board of Elections regarding EOC activation support back in 2019, and monitored Election Day last year without fully opening the EOC.
Emergency Management also opened a portion of the operations center in March for the primary election.
On Election Day, the center will have representatives from select departments and agencies.
Graham says the emergency operations center is divided into three branches:
- Emergency services, which include police, fire and medic.
- Infrastructure personnel - Charlotte Department of Transportation, Charlotte Water, and Duke Energy - will be in place to handle any issues that may affect voting.
- Human services with Mecklenburg County Health Department, the hospitals, American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other volunteer organizations active in disasters.
“We do monitor a number of different groups through social media to see what they’re saying, to see what their concerns are, to understand the temperature out there - as far as are people very upset? Are they moderately upset? We like to see what’s going on out there,” Graham said.
Hannah Sanborn, the emergency planning coordinator, says the message to the public is to stay alert.
“The biggest thing in emergency management - and this goes for all types of incidents - but really just maintaining situational awareness is really important. Keeping eye on what’s going on around you,” Sandborn said.
“There are a lot of people in the government, a lot of organizations in the government that are here to support a free election process,” Graham said. “And while our goal is that you never really see what’s going on behind the scenes, that you understand that we are working constantly 24 hours a day to ensure the safety of our citizens.”
Tell us about your voting experience. Did it go smoothly? Were there any problems? How were the lines? Did you feel safe? If so, why or why not?