Election officials in southwest Ohio and across the country are bolstering security plans and training poll workers on how to respond in case this year’s red-hot political rhetoric boils over and partisans attempt to intimidate voters or cause other trouble at the polls.
“That is real and something that election officials across the country are working into their contingency plans as we speak,” said Kay Stimson, communications director for the National Association of Secretaries of State.
Presidential elections are always contentious. But this year’s matchup between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton features a major party candidate — Trump — who hasn’t committed to accepting the results of the vote if he loses and has loudly and repeatedly claimed the election is rigged against him.
“You get concerned when anyone tries to undermine the process like that,” said Llyn McCoy, director of the Greene County Board of Elections. “Elections are not rigged.”
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says he welcomes the observers both parties say they will have at the polls, but he says they must be registered and follow the rules.
“Nobody can take this issue into their own hands,” he said. “You can’t just show up and try to inject yourself into the process.”
Voter intimidation is a crime, said Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
“Federal law contains protections for the rights of voters and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them,” he said. “We will be prepared to address any kind of allegation of voter intimidation in coordination with state and local authorities.”