Voter advocates hoping to stave off intimidation at polls
Voting rights advocates and state officials are on high alert over fears that U.S. polling stations could attract the same strain of violence and civil unrest that erupted on American streets this year, fueled by a deadly pandemic, outrage over police brutality and one of the most contentious elections ever.
Armed civilians have flocked to protests against racial injustice and COVID-19 lockdowns. Paramilitary group members are accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan’s governor before the election.
While gun rights advocates say fears of violence at the polls are unfounded, the toxic political atmosphere and the prospect of armed poll monitors have some worried it will keep voters from the polls and affect the election.
“Just as an American, the fact that we’re having this conversation is absolutely terrifying to me,” said American University professor Kurt Braddock, who researches extremist groups. “It’s a testament to how far the extreme right has come with getting into this conversation and impacting the way that politics get done here.”
Gun rights activists say fears of violence at the polls are unfounded and stoked by a leftist agenda.
“This sounds like a lot of fear-mongering by gun haters. They are always predicting that violence is going to break out. But like Chicken Little, they are always wrong,” said Erich Pratt, senior vice president at Gun Owners of America.
President Trump has called for an army of “poll watchers” to go to the polls and “watch carefully.” Monitoring the votes at polling places is allowed in most states, but rules vary and it’s not a free-for-all. States have established rules, in part, to avoid any hint that observers will harass or intimidate voters.
Some states and groups are preparing for that possibility…
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