There is no doubt that this year's general election is unlike anything the country has experienced in the past. Tensions and anxiety are running high. Many will undoubtedly run into problems trying to cast their vote — be it long lines, language barriers, or intimidation tactics.
And voter intimidation is a felony in the state of California. According to the California Secretary of State, "Every person who makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence, or tactic of coercion or intimidation, to induce or compel any other person to vote or refrain from voting at any election or to vote or refrain from voting for any particular person or measure at any election, or because any person voted or refrained from voting at any election or voted or refrained from voting for any particular person or measure at any election is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or two or three years."
Private militias and guns are prohibited at state polling places, outside of law enforcement there to cast their votes or private security hired by the city or county for security purposes.
The topic of poll watchers is also a tense subject. Though anyone in California can observe a polling place, they can't directly approach anyone attempting to vote. They are not allowed to ask anyone questions or in any way intimidate them from voting.
The ACLU lists examples of voter intimidation as:
- aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, criminal record, or other qualifications to vote, in a manner intended to interfere with the voters’ rights
- falsely presenting oneself as an election official
- spreading false information about voter requirements, such as an ability to speak English, or the need to present certain types of photo identification (in states with no such requirement)
- displaying false or misleading signs about voter fraud and the related criminal penalties
- other harassment, particularly toward non-English speakers and voters of color
Anyone who feels that their right to vote was infringed upon can call the Voter Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. The hotline is run by Election Protection, a coalition of lawyer's groups dedicated to voting rights.