State DOJ issues its own warning on voter intimidation
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A day after the U.S. Department of Justice discussed physical security during the upcoming mid-term elections, Wisconsin’s Department of Justice issued its own warning against trying to intimidate voters or interfere with the voting process.
“If you intimidate somebody in a way that impacts their ability to cast a ballot or that’s meant to impact who they vote for, that’s against the law,” Attorney General Josh Kaul explained. In a statement, his agency added threatening behavior towards election officials is also illegal. Some examples provided by the Department of Justice of intimidating behavior include:
- Verbal threats of violence;
- Confronting voters or election officials while wearing military-style or official-looking uniforms;
- Brandishing or displaying firearms in an intimidating or threatening manner in or near a polling place;
- Aggressively approaching voters’ cars or writing down license plate numbers;
- Following voters to, from, or within polling places;
- Appearing to patrol or police the voting line while armed;
- Engaging in disorderly behavior in or near a polling place; or
- Preventing access to a polling place by making threats or engaging in intimidating behavior.
Anyone who feels threatened while trying to vote should tell an election worker immediately and contact local police. If the threats are violent, they should call 911.
“We want to make clear to the public that we are prepared to respond if issues do arise, we take them very seriously, but we do also expect that things will go smoothly,” He added. Kaul went on to assure voters Wisconsin has a long history of safe elections and his agency is taking precautions to ensure that tradition continues.
“Folks should feel very comfortable going to the polls and casting their ballots, because we have a track record that shows that our polling places are safe,” he continued.
In November, Kaul will face Fond du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney in a bid for another term as attorney general.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Dept. of Justice hosted the virtual meeting, which the agency stated included approximately 300 election officials and workers from both parties, to discuss how to pay to protect people at voting locations across the country. On the table were federal grant funding available to increase security as well as using federal and state stimulus dollars for this purpose.
Wisconsin was one of four states, along with Arizona, Colorado, and Delaware, that federal officials explicitly stated had representatives there for the meeting. The agency’s statement did not indicate if other states were present or discussed.
A spokesperson for the Wisconsin DOJ could not confirm if the state agency had attended the meeting, while a Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesperson was unaware of anyone from the agency in charge of state elections attending.
When speaking to NBC15 News on Wednesday, Kaul pointed out the WEC had requested additional funding from state lawmakers, but the agency did not receive as much as the attorney general hoped. However, Kaul said he was “comfortable that we have the resources in place that we need to protect the election, but obviously the facts that develop on Election Day are the ones we’ll respond to.”
To oversee that response, Kaul said the state DOJ will manage a statewide intelligence center to track potential concerns and relay that information to local district attorneys and law enforcement who can follow up on the incidents.
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