Erie County leaders say they will not stand for any form of voter intimidation this election season. This, as the political season has seen many factors of intimidation from high energy rallies to sign tampering.
Without question, the upcoming election will be heated. County officials say they are planning for any possibilities.
“There are people out there that will push the envelope and if they do that, they’ll be dealt with. If they cross the legal line, authorities will deal with them.” said Carl Anderson, Board of Elections Chairman.
A collaborative effort has been in the works between public safety departments and County Council to plan for any safety concerns that could arise on November 3rd.
“Although I really believe that the people of Erie County are going to vote like they always do; have their voices heard and its going to be a non-event when it comes to that.” said Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper.
The Sheriff’s Office will have extra deputies, mostly around the Court House.
“This is a very passionate election on both sides of the fence and we don’t know how people are going to react.” said Sheriff John Loomis.
With extra staff members from the Sheriff’s Department, you won’t see any at the polls. Under regulation 30-47 of the Election Code, it prohibits any military or law enforcement in uniform carrying weapons to be within 100 feet of polling locations.
“We don’t want the military or the law enforcement to be perceived as an intimidating threat themselves.” Anderson said.
Open carry voters will not be permitted within 100 feet of a polling center unless they’re voting.
Two or more open carry voters can not gather or congregate at any polling or drop off box location.
County Council members were coy when speaking about logistics of keeping ballots secure.
“I don’t see the wisdom in going over and revealing to you each and every step. In fact, I think its not wise.” said Andre Horton.
Council also passed a new resolution for the election regarding pre-canvassing.
RULES FOR PRE-CANVASSING MAIL-IN AND ABSENTEE BALLOTS
- Pre-canvassing of mail-in and absentee ballots on Election Day
- Election staff shall insure that baIIots are tabulated by precinct, with election results by ballot type.
- No secrecy envelope shall contain any text, mark or symbol which reveals the identity of the elector, the elector’s political affiliation or the elector’s candidate preference. Such marked-up envelopes shall be set aside, unopened, and declared void.
- If no marks are identified, the outer envelope shall be opened in a manner that preserves the integrity of the declaration made thereon. The inner ballot secrecy envelope may then be removed and separated from the outer declaration envelope.
- If a voter fails to insert his ballot in the secrecy envelope, then the ballot must be set aside and declared void.
- Voters who are lawfully in the polling place, election officials and poll watchers may challenge a voter’s right to vote. Challenges to absentee and mail in ballots shall be limited to the elector’s identification residency, and shall be made not prior to 5pm day of election.
- For each challenged mail-in or absentee ballot, the election officials shall insure the envelope is marked as “challenged,” with the reason for the challenge noted on the envelope. The envelope shall be set aside intact, the inner secrecy ballot envelope not removed.
- No election’s official, worker, candidate or party representative shall disclose the result of any portion of the pre-canvass vote prior to the close of the polls on Election Day.
- If the pre-canvass process is completed before the polls are closed, do not take any steps to record and publish the results until after the polls have closed.
- If the pre-canvass process is not completed prior to the close of the polls, the scanning process shall continue until completed. At that time, the ballots will be tabulated, and the results made public.
- Pre-canvassing of absentee and mail-in ballots after the close of the polls on Election Day
- The Erie County Election Board must meet no earlier than the close of polls and no later than the third day following the election to canvass all returned absentee and mail-in ballots there were not included in the Election Day pre-canvass meeting. The only distinction between a pre-canvass and a canvass meeting is that election results generated during a canvass meeting may be made public.
- This meeting shall continue until all civilian absentee and mail-in ballots received prior to 5:00 p.m. on the Friday following the close of polls on Election Day have been canvassed. Provided, proof that an absentee or mail-in ballot was not postmarked prior to the close of the polls on Election Day will void the ballot and it shall not be counted.
- A county board of elections shall provide at least forty-eight hours’ notice of a canvass meeting by publicly posting a notice on its publicly accessible Internet website.
- An authorized representative of each candidate in an election and one representative from each political party shall be permitted to remain in each of the rooms in which the absentee ballots and mail-in ballots are canvassed.
When entering the results into the vote tabulation software, election officials shall indicate whether they are updating the Election Day results or replacing the Election Day results, as appropriate, to insure that the final results of all absentee and mail-in ballots are accurately reflected in the data.
An authorized representative of each candidate and one representative from each political party shall be permitted to remain in the room in which the absentee ballots and mail-in ballots are pre-canvassed or canvassed.
- Watchers in attendance may not disclose any pre-canvass results prior to the close of polls on Election Day.
- Watchers must remain a safe and respectful distance from the space where pre- canvassing or counting is occurring.
- Watchers may not engage, attempt to influence or otherwise interfere with staff, voters or the process of pre-canvassing/canvassing the vote.
- Social distancing measures will be maintained to insure the safety of eanvassers and watchers.
- Conduct by a party representative or candidate representative which is intended to threaten, harass or intimidate voters or canvassers, or has the effect of interfering with the canvassing or pre-canvassing of the vote is strictly prohibited. Representatives who do not adhere to this policy shall be subject to expulsion from the room reserved for pre-canvassing/canvassing of the vote.
- Watchers may not challenges an absentee or mail in ballot during the precanvass or canvass of the ballots„ nor may any poll watcher challenge a voted ballot, mail-in or absentee ballot based upon signature analysis.
CONDUCT AT THE POLLING PLACE
- The persons permitted inside the polling place shall be limited to the following:
- Election Officials, including the Judge of Election, the Inspectors, appointed clerks and machine operators.
- Voters in the process of voting, but no more than ten (10) voters at a time. Others waiting to vote must wait outside the area where voting is taking place.
- Persons lawfiilly providing assistance to voters.
- Poll watchers. One (1) poll watcher per party and one (1) poll watcher per candidate may be inside at any given time. Watchers must remain at least six (6) feet away from the area where voting is occurring.
- Except as provided under the Election Code (25 P.S. Section 3060), all persons, including campaign workers, and all signs and other eleetioneering material, must be located at least ten (10) feet away from the entrance to the polling place.
- Unless in the exercise of their privilege of voting, or if called upon to preserve the peace, no commissioned police officer shall be within one hundred (100) feet of a polling place during the conduct of any election.
- Unless in the exercise of their privilege of voting, no open carry voter shall be within one hundred (100) feet of a polling place during the conduct of any election.
- No group of open carry voters (two or more) shall gather or congregate at any polling place or drop off box location.