Decision 2020

Miami Police, Leaders Prepare for Intimidation Tactics at Polls as Early Voting Ramps Up

All voters are encouraged to call 911 if they witness intimidation attempts at a a polling place

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Now that in-person voting has started, Miami Police say all voters should be able to cast their votes free of intimidation at polling places. 

“We don’t have any credible threats right now against any polling site in the city of Miami or Miami-Dade County, however we know that it only takes a moment for some radical fringe group to activate a number of people to go out and commit some act to try to intimidate,” said Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina at a news conference Monday outside of Miami City Hall. 

Colina is worried about any attempts to suppress votes by scaring voters away from the polls, and so is Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. 

“We’ve received an incredible amount of emails and calls from our residents concerning the security of our election process," Suarez said. "Some are concerned that they may not be able to vote at all because of harassment that they’ve seen at polling places."

“I mean you can feel that your candidate is the best thing to ever happen to this world, but you have to respect the right of the other individual to go out and cast their vote,” said Miami city commissioner Manolo Reyes, who said voting is the backbone of our democracy and must not be impeded in any way.

One thing voters don’t have to fear is armed militias. 

“There are also state laws that we have in place that will keep things that you may see in the national news from happening here," said city commissioner Ken Russell. "There’s is no such thing as private militias legally in the state of Florida. You will not see anyone in any sort of military garb, as that is illegal. You will not see open carry at a polling location, as that is illegal."

What about groups like the Proud Boys, who might not be armed but might try to exert influence at a polling site? 

“That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m worried about,” Colina said, pointing to an incident Sunday in which members of the Proud Boys were seen trying to disrupt a Joe Biden campaign event. 

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said on Friday that the supervisor of elections in his county has asked all police agencies to be on alert to break up intimidation attempts at voting locations. 

“Where a rogue group, the Proud Boys or what have you, decide that they’re gonna come out and intimidate our residents, we will have none of that,” Tony said. 

Colina said his department will have plain-clothes officers monitoring voting locations, with uniformed officers ready to respond in case anyone causes trouble. 

All voters are encouraged to call 911 if they witness intimidation attempts at a a polling place. 

Floridians began early voting in much of the state Monday with no serious problems reported.

Under state law, counties can offer up to two weeks of early voting and many do, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and other population centers. Large counties offer multiple sites and all counties allow those who have received mail-in ballots to drop them off. The latest a county can start early voting is Saturday. The final day is Nov. 1.

About 2.5 million mail-in ballots have already been cast, with Democrats returning 1.2 million and Republicans about 758,000 as of Monday. Non-affiliated voters and third-party members make up the rest.

NBC 6 and the Associated Press
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