WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — With midterm elections coming next week, law enforcement and government officials are worried about voter and poll worker intimidation.
In states all around the country, there has been growth in voter intimidation.
Some officials are concerned about what they see as a growing trend of self-appointed poll watchers going beyond peaceful observation.
Justin Smith is an elected Republican sheriff in Larimer County, Colo. Smith says he felt compelled to join the Committee for Safe and Fair Elections because of the rise in voter and poll worker intimidation.
“Being nearby a box armed or dressed in such a way, tactical or military type clothing that can create intimidation or concern for people dropping off ballots,” he said.
Smith and other government officials say the goal of these tactics is to discourage voting or pressure election officials into changing results.
The threats are driving many experienced election workers to quit.
While laws vary by state, Smith says if actions seem inappropriate there’s a good chance they’re also illegal.
“In Colorado, for example, people are prohibited from having an open firearm, unconcealed within 100 feet of any polling location,” he said.
Smith blames the problems on extreme political polarization that he says is driven by misinformation that spreads widely on social media.
“Our elections have been something that’s really sacred to us,” Smith said. “When you lose an election, you’ve lost an election and you move on and you honor that.”