Fairfax County’s Commonwealth Attorney has issued a warning against the use of voter intimidation as many Fairfax residents are worried about its potential impact on this year’s election.
“I’ve been hearing a lot of concern about voter intimidation,” Descano said in a video he posted on twitter. “I’ve set up a special election response team that will be on call whenever the polls are open; standing by to coordinate with the Fairfax County Police Department when responding to allegations of voter intimidation. That team has been trained on all relevant topics including voter intimidation, the county’s new gun ordinance, and even the prosecution of unlawful militias that would interfere with the free exercise of voting.”
“Nothing flies in the face of patriotism and freedom quite like voter intimidation,” he continued. “Although politics can often be divisive and contentious, there is no excuse for voter intimidation and my office stands ready to protect everyone’s right to vote.”
This comes as volunteers for the Fairfax County Republican Party have engaged in tactics leaving voters feeling extremely uncomfortable at in person early voting locations. On one of the first days for early voting at the Fairfax County Government Center, for instance, Trump supporters drove around in circles while honking their horns and carrying Trump flags while screaming various slogans. County officials eventually had to come escort voters through the crowd of conservative activists because so many voters felt intimidated by the GOP’s shenanigans.
While law enforcement officials said actions taken by the Republican Party that day negatively impacted voters and the community was right to be concerned, the activities weren’t technically illegal. With that in mind, Descano did highlight some of the actions that are specifically outlawed at polling locations.
- Threats or acts of violence
- Acting aggressively toward voters
- A display of firearms
- Blocking the entrance or exit of a polling place
- Following a voter to or from their vehicle
The rise in concern about voter intimidation also comes as Donald Trump has called for his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.” The president says this would be to prevent fraudulent voting, but his claims of voter fraud have been repeatedly proven untrue by election officials and law enforcement.
Combine this with how the president told white supremacists to “stand by” during the first presidential debate and armed right wing extremist groups are taking the president’s remarks as a call to action and announced they’ll be patrolling polling locations. This also coincides with Steve Knotts, the Chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Party, speaking out against local ordinances preventing people from carrying weapons inside government buildings in Fairfax County.
Voter intimidation isn’t the only concern that officials have as there are also concerns about the use of voter suppression tactics used by certain groups. There have been multiple reports of volunteers from the Fairfax County Republican Party lying to voters waiting in long lines about when they were allowed to cast their ballot and saying they were better off voting on Election Day at a different location.
Since “there is no greater expression of our shared American values” than voting, as Steve Descano said, many Fairfax residents appear to be relieved county officials are taking actions to prevent voter intimidation and suppression. Hopefully these efforts will be successful and voters will be able to freely participate in this year’s election.