Sunday, September 20, 2020

Trump Supporters Disrupt Early Voting in Virginia

Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul
,The New York Times•September 20, 2020

A group of Trump supporters waving campaign flags disrupted the second day of early voting in Fairfax, Virginia, on Saturday, chanting, “Four more years” as voters entered a polling location and at one point forming a line that voters had to walk around outside the site.

County election officials eventually were forced to open up a larger portion of the Fairfax County Government Center to allow voters to wait inside, away from the Trump enthusiasts.

Election officials said that the group stayed about 100 feet from the entrance to the building and, contrary to posts on social media, were not directly blocking access to the building. But they acknowledged that some voters and polling staff members felt intimidated by what some saw as protesters.

“Citizens coming into and leaving the building did have to go by them,” Gary Scott, the general registrar of Fairfax County, said in a statement. “Those voters who were in line outside of the building were moved inside and we continued operations. Some voters, and elections staff, did feel intimidated by the crowd and we did provide escorts past the group.


Virginia election law states that it is illegal to “hinder or delay a qualified voter in entering or leaving a polling place” and that it is also prohibited to perform any kind of political advocacy within 40 feet of any entrance to a polling place.


Some election rights groups said that the Trump group might have still crossed a legal line.

“In Virginia, the safe zone around the polling location is only 40 feet, but that safe zone is for campaigning and trying to change a person’s vote,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, a voting rights group. “Outside of that, in general, there are laws against intimidation. So I would say that even if they have a right to campaign, which they absolutely do, they do not have a right to interfere with someone’s right to vote or to intimidate them. To me, this went beyond campaigning, and they should have been removed.”


Albert added that the demonstration underscored the need for counties and municipalities to develop contingency voting plans for all situations.

“Contingency plans aren’t only if there is a hurricane or a pandemic,” she said. “It’s also if something is making my polling location inaccessible to voters. That could be power going down; that could be people protesting and blocking the door.”


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