Talk of rigged elections sparks fear of confrontations at polling sites
Posted October 21, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Making unsubstantiated allegations of massive voter fraud, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and running mate Mike Pence have been urging supporters to deputize themselves as poll watchers to ensure the integrity of the election.
"Donald Trump and I are encouraging all of our supporters around the country and, frankly, every American whatever their politics to take the opportunity to be involved in a respectful way in providing accountability at our polling places," Pence said Tuesday during a stop in Hillsborough.
Wake County elections director Gary Sims said Friday that he has fielded some calls from would-be poll watchers, but he said North Carolina law already includes legitimate poll observers appointed in advance by political parties.
"They can come in and observe what's going on in the polling place, but the key word is observe. There cannot be interactions with them and our officials (or) voters," Sims said.
Voters in line at early-voting sites around the county are usually met by poll greeters from each party, precinct workers and people handing out sample ballots and information. So far, Sims said, no one's been greeted by any self-appointed poll watchers, and he said he hopes it stays that way over the next two-plus weeks.
"I'll admit, I was nervous before this started, but that's not what we saw," Sims said, noting that voters have been cordial during the first two days of early voting despite the charged political atmosphere. "Democrats standing next to Republicans standing next to Libertarians standing next to unaffiliated voters, and they’re talking about their grandkids."
Anyone other than official poll watchers can observe voting lines from outside a 50-foot buffer zone, he said, but harassing or obstructing voters will not be permitted. Any voter who experiences that should report it to precinct officials, he said.
"We do need to make sure that we're enforcing and making sure that voters are not being impeded," Sims said. "We have a lot that we can do. No. 1, we have full support if we need to call 911."