- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 13, 2020

North Carolina election officials barred local police officers from stationing officers at polling places, just days before early voting begins in the state.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections said the uniformed officers are a form of voter intimidation. If an officer is required to direct traffic or handle parking issues, he or she must be in plain clothes, the board of elections said in a memo.

But a local police group says the board can’t keep officers out of the polls, either to vote or to provide security.

“Guidance to our members is that officers should follow department policies regarding wearing uniforms on duty. We also suggest that local [Boards of Elections] should be aware that officers may come to vote in uniform,” the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police said in a statement.

Over the weekend, the state board of elections issued a memo detailing steps to prevent voter intimidation. This year, the board opted to ban law enforcement from polling precincts.

“It is not appropriate or permissible for law enforcement to be stationed at a voting place,” the memo states. “County boards of elections must be mindful that some voters find a law enforcement presence at the polls intimidating.”

Counties can use local officers to direct traffic or to escort election officials after the polls close, but those officers must be in plain clothes, according to the memo.

The board did not return a request for comment from The Washington Times.

Tim Wigginton, a spokesman for the North Carolina Republican Party, accused the Democratic-led board of anti-cop rhetoric.

“The NCSBE’s reckless directive, which bans law enforcement from enforcing the law in uniform, is simply an impractical, dangerous attempt to appease the radical left,” Mr. Wigginton said in a statement. “The NCSBE should immediately reverse their erroneous order designed to appease their liberal overlords at the expense of the safety of North Carolinians.”

Stationing police officers at polling places has always been a contentious issue. Supporters say it cuts down on voter fraud, but opponents warn their presence has a chilling effect on Black and Hispanic voters.

President Trump this summer said he is contemplating sending law enforcement officers to polling locations to prevent voter fraud.

“We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorney generals [sic],” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

U.S. law prohibits stationing federal law enforcement at polling places and a president doesn’t have authority over local sheriffs or police departments, so it is unlikely Mr. Trump could deploy officers.

State laws are somewhat less clear. Several states expressly forbid law enforcement at the polls. Pennsylvania, for example, bans police from being near polling places unless they are there to vote or serve a warrant.

North Carolina, however, does not have such a law.

During the 2018 midterm elections, Charlotte’s polling places received extra attention from police after an armed man threatened a Black Republican campaign volunteer in a parking lot.

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