COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
With Election Day coming up Tuesday, election officials and law enforcement say they are prepared to keep people at polling places safe should any issues arise.
Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said she has been in contact with the Columbia Police Department and the Boone County Sheriff's Department.
"Over-preparedness is really what our goal is for any election," she said.
The clerk's office continuously monitors communication through state and federal channels and works to have open lines of communication with law enforcement, Lennon said.
Lennon has provided the two departments with a sheet that outlines who is allowed to be in a polling place and what to do if someone breaks the rules.
"I feel better prepared to deal with polling places than I have in the past," Columbia Police Department Chief Geoff Jones said.
The guidance sheet provides many examples of what is not allowed, such as:
- Use of force or violence against anyone to compel them to vote or not to vote.
- Engaging in any act of violence or destruction of property worth at least $500 or threatening violence to compel someone to vote or not vote.
- Exit polling, surveying, electioneering, posting signs and parking vehicles with signs within 25 feet of a polling place door.
It also provides information on who is allowed to be inside polling places.
- Election authority personnel
- Election judges (poll workers)
- Watchers and challengers appointed by political parties
- Law enforcement officials at the request of election officials or in the line of duty
- Minor children accompanying an adult who is voting
- International observers
- Members of the news media
- Registered voters who are eligible to vote at the polling place
Lennon and Columbia police have been on the lookout for any plans to disrupt polling places or other illegal activity circulating on social media or other places, but said they have not seen anything of concern.
Jones said even though there are not any signs of disruption they still want to be prepared.
"You know, 2020 has been an odd year and we've had a lot of demonstrations and the pandemic and it's just an unpredictable year for us. So we want to make sure that we're prepared and people feel safe and secure in their voting this year," Jones said.
This discussion on safety comes after President Donald Trump called on his supporters to go to polling places and watch for voter fraud.
Law enforcement will not be at each polling place in Boone County but will respond if they are called. Any responding officers or deputies will be in touch with supervisors at each polling place.
Poll workers also run through exercises to be prepared for anything. Several agencies have put on exercises running through Election Day security scenarios, Lennon said.
Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer said he also trains poll workers on what is allowed and what is not. The office hosts five classes for workers.
"We'll discuss our equipment, we'll discuss the ballots, we'll discuss the whole election process and what they need to watch for and what they need to be prepared for," he said.
Penny Quigg is a poll worker in Cole County. She has worked the polls for 49 years and started in Cole County around 2000. She went through training in August.
"We do go over the basics and then if anyone has experienced anything sort of extraordinary that's kind of highlighted during the training and how we would handle it," she said.
Korsmeyer said he also does not expect any sort of disruption to happen at polling places in Cole County. He has been in communication with law enforcement just in case.
"There's a law where you're not allowed just to go into a polling locations. You have to be a registered voter of that polling location so I don't really see any issues with people just showing up wanting to observe," he said.
Korsmeyer said the Cole County Sheriff's Office plans to have deputies on duty to assist poll workers if necessary.
Quigg said this election has been a swirl of activity that has contributed to public anxiety.
"Of course we have the pandemic and people are concerned about their health and there's a lot of controversy about the national candidates so that's added to people's level of uncomfort," she said.
Despite this she does not have any concerns about people causing disruptions at polling locations on Election Day.
Quigg said any voters who have concerns on Election Day should tell an election judge so workers can rectify the issue.
Missouri law includes four levels of election offenses. The offenses range from engaging in violence to threatening harm to prevent people from voting to handing out fraudulent sample ballots.
- Class 1 election offenses
- Class 2 election offenses
- Class 3 election offenses
- Class 4 election offenses
If someone breaks the law under one of these classes it will prevent them from ever voting again.