AG Healey: Intimidating voters illegal at polling places

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FILE – In this Feb. 26, 2020 file photo, using both the English and Spanish language, a sign points potential voters to an official polling location during early voting in Dallas. Getting enough people to staff polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic is a challenge in many states. The virus’ disproportionate impact on Latinos has made the task of recruiting Spanish-speakers even more difficult. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

BOSTON, Mass. (AP) — Interfering or intimidating voters at polling locations is illegal, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said.

The Democrat said she felt the need to issue the advisory on Thursday following statements by President Donald Trump raising the possibility of calling up law enforcement officials including sheriffs and police chiefs to monitor for potential cheating at polling locations.

State law prohibits intimidation of voters and interference with elections officers by anyone, including law enforcement officers and private citizens, Healy said.

She said local police officers stationed at polling places to assist local election officials are generally barred from entering the immediate voting area, unless requested to assist the chief election official at the polling place.

Federal law specifically bans the military or other armed federal officers from being present at polling places, except to “repel armed enemies of the United States,” she said.

The president also cannot order state and local law enforcement officials to monitor the polls, according to Healey.

While it’s also illegal for private citizens to intimidate voters, there are permissible ways to observe and monitor polling locations.

Poll observers are allowed inside the polling place, unless they are disorderly or obstruct the access of voters, Healey said.

They may observe polling place operations but under no circumstances can they intimidate, threaten, coerce or otherwise interfere with a voter’s right to cast a ballot, she added.

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