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What is Voter Intimidation & What to Do About it

Under a cloud of heightened concerns about violent political rhetoric and worse, New York State Attorney General Letitia James is giving law enforcement agencies and local Boards of Election some guidance on how to combat voter intimidation in the upcoming general election.

The Democrat says her office has also sent guidelines to election officials on how to manage long lines and support voters with disabilities. Early voting is currently underway with the general election November 8.

Under New York State and federal law, it is illegal for anyone to intimidate, threaten or coerce voters in an effort to interfere with their right to vote.

Recent images at places where early voting has been taking place in very contentious battles for the US Senate and Congress in places like Arizona and Georgia, have even shown masked men wearing body armor standing at absentee ballot drop boxes in what may be considered by some as threatening.

KB Gray/Townsquare Media Binghamton

KB Gray/Townsquare Media Binghamton

James’ office lists some conduct as potentially intimidating like:

*Individuals or groups patrolling outside polling places and trying to scare people out of the voting line. “

*Civilians dressed as law enforcement officers and harassing voters at poll sites. “

*Poll watchers inside a polling place engaging in aggressive behavior or challenging large groups of voters, leading to long lines and creating false fears that people may be voting illegally. “

*Poll watchers standing in the vicinity of privacy booths, standing in unauthorized areas, video taping or photographing voters in the polling place.” The guidance, however, emphasizes that members of the news media are allowed to film or take pictures of individuals in the polling place if they have written authorization from the Board of Elections and permission from each individual.

*People spreading false rumors or making statements there are negative consequences to voting. “

*Individuals or groups displaying military weapons or uniforms outside of polling locations.

Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News

Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News

New Yorkers who observe any illegal conduct are encouraged to contact OAG’s Election Protection Hotline by calling (866) 390-2992, submitting complaints online or emailing election.hotline@ag.ny.gov. Emergencies or incidents involving potentially dangerous conduct should be reported to local law enforcement immediately by calling 911.

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