Counties, poll workers talk de-escalation plans ahead of Election Day

Arizona Election
Posted at 7:09 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 22:09:19-04

Election officials across Arizona aren't taking any chances.

The Secretary of State's office published guidance for counties and poll workers to follow if problems arise both inside and outside voting locations on November 3.

State officials recommend poll workers prepare to handle situations from voters refusing to follow COVID-19 guidelines, demonstrations outside voting locations, and groups of men and women who plan to act as observers.

"There are not any specific threats that we know about, but we are obviously continually monitoring that," said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs Friday.

Poll workers are encouraged to use de-escalation tactics such as non-verbal techniques, including speaking calmly, and refraining from mirroring defensive gestures.

It also says poll workers should listen, validate and address a person's concerns, and ask another poll worker to join the conversation if they're unable to resolve the incident. If they feel their safety, or that of other voters, is in danger, they should call 911.

Counties across our state, including Pinal and Yavapai counties, tell ABC15 they've been in touch with law enforcement ahead of Election day.

"We have partnered with law-enforcement across the county and across the state and even with the FBI," said Pinal County Elections Director Michele Forney. "If there are incidents that cross the line into voter intimidation, we will be reaching out to law-enforcement to make that stop.”

"We've seen some lively debates," added Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman. "{Law enforcement] know what’s going on, they are part of the community and they are very aware. "

Still, Hoffman says she doesn't anticipate any issues on Election day.

Hobbs though, says she's briefed many big players.

"We certainly know that it’s a concern for people, and we certainly are paying attention to this," she said. "We’ve been having discussions not only with county election officials across the state, and local law-enforcement as well as our federal election partners."

When it comes to laws at polling places, Arizona states anyone at a voting center to do anything other than cast their ballots are not allowed within 75 feet of the entrance to the polling location. Most locations allow electioneering, so you may see political parties, or others outside posted signs.

There are also laws when it comes to poll watchers. In Arizona, they're allowed. One poll watcher for each party is allowed to be inside each voting center, but must remain at a distance from voters casting their ballots. They must also be screened ahead of time, and verified by each party.

“Which means that they have a letter from their party chair and that I have a copy of it so that we know who’s coming," said Forney. "If people show up and say that they want to observe or be a poll watcher and they don’t have that piece of paper, they are not going to be allowed in.”

Others may try to observe from the allowed distance, but if their presence is argued as intimidation of voters, poll workers may need to intervene.