Elections 2020

Santa Clara County Taking Steps to Prevent Voter Intimidation at the Polls

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As Election Day approaches, President Donald Trump has repeatedly asked his supporters to spend that day at polling places watching for any wrongdoing.

Although it is legal for any voter in California to monitor the vote count, a growing number of people are worried the president's call could lead to problems at the polls on Election Day.

In the Bay Area, Santa Clara County will be taking specific measures to make sure election monitors don't end up intimidating voters.

Election staff are preparing to enforce strict guidelines for anyone wanting to observe the election process.

For example, a poll watcher can sign up and ask to stand behind a window as the votes are being counted. Then, a staff member will go with them to a specific area to make sure they are not disrupting or interfering with the voting process.

However, as social distance is enforced due to the coronavirus pandemic, space will be limited for election monitors.

To enforce safety at the polls, Santa Clara County will be assisted by local, state and federal authorities.

"We do have a partnership with local state and federal authorities to make sure our voters center staff and voters feel safe about centers“ said Evelyn Mendez, Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Public Information Officer.

In addition, people with election signs or clothing must stay at least 100 feet away from the polls.

"I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that has to happen,” is one of the messages the president has sent out to the public recently.

As his campaign recruits a so called “Army for Trump “ to observe the election process, some are questioning the impact on voters.

"It has certainly raised  concerns that it will lead to chaos and arguments when the poll watchers are supposed to observe and not be interfering,” said Margaret Russell, Constitutional Law Professor Santa Clara University School of Law.

Santa Clara County's goal is to prevent voter intimidation similar to what happened during the 1988 general election in Orange County.  In that election, the county GOP hired uniformed guards to canvas polling places in heavily Latino neighborhoods amid rumors of illegal voting.   

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