Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan is warning not to engage in illegal conduct on election day. Secretary of state issues warnings about behavior at polls on election day:
Seeking to avoid confrontation between voters and self-styled poll watchers, Secretary of State Michele Reagan warned Wednesday what will and will not be tolerated at polling places next week.
Some of what Reagan outlined is already law, like who can remain inside polling places and a ban on photos and videos there. And she reiterated that there is no electioneering within 75 feet.
But the key is her warnings of what is unacceptable to occur outside that 75-foot perimeter, an area where partisans can watch and even try to influence voters.
Her list includes everything from demanding that prospective voters must provide credentials and erecting signs listing the penalty for voter fraud to the “aggressive or ostentatious display of weapons.”
The warning comes amid claims by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that the election is “rigged” and that people who are not citizens will be casting ballots.
Trump has repeatedly suggested his supporters need to personally keep an eye on what is happening at polling places. That includes statements at one rally to “check out areas because a lot of bad things happen, and we don’t want to lose for that reason.”
Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts said his boss is assuming there will not be problems. [This is the same woman who did not anticipate the problems in each of the elections she has handled during her term, earning her reputation as the queen of election day screw-ups.]
He said poll workers and marshals get training on “how to deal with unruly folks or situations that could be threatening to other voters.” The key, said Roberts, is preventing problems before they develop into something more.
“They’re always looking to calm folks down first,” he said. “Defusing situations is always Rule No. 1.”
What’s harder, he said, is balancing protecting prospective voters from harassment and honoring the First Amendment rights of those who want to stand around outside and even engage with those going into the polls. And Roberts said he cannot say exactly where that line is.
“To use an old phrase, you know it when you see it,” he said.
“Folks outside that 75 (foot line) do need to understand, in some way, that it is a free-speech area,” Roberts explained, meaning that people cannot be stopped from approaching would-be voters, asking them questions and urging them to vote a given way. “But by no means does anybody have a right to get in someone’s face.”
Then there’s that question of armed observers, an issue Roberts calls “dicey.”
Arizona law allows any adult to carry a firearm, whether open or concealed, in most public places. That includes standing around outside that 75-foot perimeter.
What observers cannot do comes down to that question of “aggressive or ostentatious display of weapons.”
“I’m not sure that there is a legal definition of ‘ostentatious,’ ” Roberts said.
“But I suspect that if you decided to bring an automatic weapon to the outside of a polling place, someone might feel intimidated by that,” he said. “And there’s other people that might not feel intimidated by that.”
He said it may come down to whether the behavior is aggressive, things like purposely showing a firearm and pointing to it, even if it remains holstered.
“And certainly pointing it at someone is altogether a legal ramification,” Robert said, running afoul of criminal statutes.
Other things Reagan said is conduct that can be considered intimidating includes:
- Photographing or filming voters in a “harassing or intimidating manner.”
- Impersonating law enforcement or wearing clothing, uniforms or other apparel
- “intended to deter, intimidate or harass voters.”
- Intentionally disseminating false information about the date, time or location of voting.
- Using “threatening, insulting or offensive language” to a voter.
- Disrupting voting lines.
- Blocking the entrance.
UPDATE: Guidance on Polling Place Conduct and Preventionof Voter Intimidation and Discrimination (Scribd) – h/t Arizona’s Politics blog.
The U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division staff is available by phone to receive complaints related to voting rights (1-800-253-3931 toll free or 202-307-2767) or by TTY (202-305-0082). In addition, individuals may also report complaints, problems or concerns related to voting by fax 202-307-3961, by email to email@example.com and by complaint forms that may be submitted through a link on the department’s website: https://www.justice.gov/crt/voting-section.
Complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should always be reported immediately to local law enforcement authorities by calling 911. They should also be reported to the Department of Justice after local authorities are contacted.