Voting Rights Advocates Demand Removal of Police in Polling Places

For Immediate Release – November 6, 2016
Contact: Ricardo Ramírez
202-487-0967, rramirez@advancementproject.org

 

Voting Rights Advocates Demand Removal of Police in Polling Places  

Greene County Clerk’s Office Asked to Withdraw Order for Police Presence at Polls; Put on Notice that Police Presence May Constitute Voter Intimidation

Full letter is available here.

 

St. Louis, Mo. – Today, the multi-racial civil rights organization Advancement Project, the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP and the Mound City Bar Association sent a letter to Shane Schoeller, Clerk of Greene County, Mo., demanding that he rescind a directive to place police at poll sites in Springfield, Missouri, during Tuesday’s elections.

“Voters should feel like they can cast their ballots without being intimidate,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of Advancement Project’s national office. “Taking any actions that could be detrimental to the electoral process is not only ill-advised; it can be against the law if they are found to intimidate voters. From Florida to Georgia to Missouri, our advocates and partners will do everything within their power to ensure that voters can cast their ballots. Protecting the vote is paramount, and intimidating voters is illegal.”

“Placing police at poll sites can be inherently intimidating to voters, particularly in communities of color where such presence has historical ties to efforts to impede voter access to the polls,” Denise Lieberman, Senior Attorney at Advancement Project wrote in the letter. “In some communities, having patrols at poll sites is far more likely to disrupt the voting process than facilitate it, and carries a likelihood of intimidating or impeding voters’ access.”

Instead of placing police officers proactively at the polls, the advocates said, police should be in poll sites only where a specific and legitimate law enforcement need justifies that presence.

“Clerk Schoeller is right that that there are high emotions around the election,” said Nimrod Chapel, President of the State Conference of the NAACP, which joined in the request to Clerk Schoeller. “For this very reason, the last thing we need is to add an element of voter intimidation by stationing police at the polls. He must stand down and let voters access their polling places without risking intimidation.”

Shoeller has been on record stating that he does not have knowledge of or reason to believe actual issues will take place at the polls, saying “I think everything will be fine.”

"All Americans deserve to vote in an environment without hindrances to the ballot," said Mound City Bar Association Vice President Steve Harmon. "Any impediment to the voting process, the most fundamental expression of our democracy, will not be tolerated. Advocates and grassroots groups will stand together and ensure a sound and welcoming process where communities can cast their ballots."

Advancement Project and our partners across the country work every day to protect the rights of voters so that they can cast their ballots. Today’s request was sent as part of a coalition-led non-partisan Election Protection effort in the state. If voters feel intimidated, they should document the incident, include the date, time, city, polling location and precinct and should call 866-OUR-VOTE.

In the letter to Clerk Schoeller, Lieberman, Chapel and Harmon requested any communications, electronic or otherwise, initiated or received by the Clerk’s office related to plans to place law enforcement at poll sites during the Nov. 8 elections and put the Clerk’s office on notice that Election Protection lawyers in Missouri intend to respond to any reports of intimidation at the polls to the fullest extent of the law.  

Click here to read the full letter. 

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Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.