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Voter intimidation concerns on the rise as the election approaches

November 2, 2020

As the Nov. 3 election draws closer, voter intimidation has become a topic of concern for many.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, voter intimidation is caused by anyone who “threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose.” 

While it can present itself in many ways, voter intimidation is most commonly seen through physically blocking polling stations, use of verbal assault at polling stations, false or misleading signage and spreading false information about who can vote and where. 

Journalism senior Ella Cunningham has reservations about voting in person.

“I’m one of a handful of people of color in my immediate area, and I constantly feel like I’m standing out and getting judged,” Cunningham said. “I don’t really want to get looks, or hear murmurs of the n-word as I go past people. So I’ll be voting early and alone.”

Although this will be her first time voting, and she wants to do it the “traditional way,” the fear of being harassed is too much.

“It’s awful that it has to be that way, but sometimes it’s just easier to make myself smaller," Cunningham said.

For others, concerns stem from incidents of unrest in the past.

"Personally, I voted absentee because of COVID," psychology senior Emma Lock said. "Plus, I didn't want to deal with the protesters. There were a lot of protests back in April in Lansing. People were carrying guns and spreading hate."

The East Lansing Police Department has an apparent plan for Election Day.

"We have a pretty comprehensive operations plan that I can’t get into all the details on," Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez said.

"We work very closely with the City Clerk’s Office to ensure that all of the polling locations here in the City of East Lansing, and also on Michigan State University’s campus, have a secure environment so people feel comfortable while they go to the polls to vote."

City of Lansing officials also claim to have procedures ready if things get out of hand on Election Day.

“We’re coordinating with the local police department, and training our election workers to notify us of any election violations,” Chief Deputy City Clerk Brian Jackson said. “And if they see anything that would be an emergency, they would call 911.”

Lansing Police Department, or LPD, also filed a release on Wednesday, outlining their plan for Election Day.

“The Lansing Police Department will have an increased alert status in response to the City’s commitment to maintain safety for in-person voting," the release said.

While no specific plan of action is named, LPD assured citizens there will be nothing to fear.

“The Lansing Police Department will be working in conjunction with Clerk Chris Swope’s Office, the Attorney General’s office, the Ingham County Prosecutor, and other local, state and federal law enforcement partners to improve its response to any suspicious behavior concerning voter intimidation, civil unrest or acts of violence.”

Detroit voters faced incidents of voter intimidation on Nov. 2, according to the Detroit Free Press.

During the first day of processing at the TCF Center in Detroit, a ballot challenger wearing a Halloween mask shouted that the process was "crooked" and would not identify himself. He was later removed by security, the Detroit Free Press reported. A woman who was wearing her mask incorrectly was also removed from the premises after causing a scene.

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Voters can report suspicious, intimidating or violent activity to the Lansing Police Department by calling 911 (emergency) or (517)-483-4600 (non-emergency).


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