A group of nonpartisan civil rights and voting rights organizations sent a letter to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri in response to two armed individuals dressed as security guards outside an early voting site in Pinellas County who reportedly said they were “hired by the Trump campaign.” In response, Sheriff Gualtieri called for stationing deputies at all early voting locations in Pinellas County. In the letter, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Florida, All Voting is Local, Common Cause Florida, Fair Elections Center, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of Women Voters of Florida, NAACP Florida State Conference, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and FLCET (State Voices), highlight that Sheriff Gualtieri’s response to the armed individuals could amplify voter intimidation.
The groups cautioned Sheriff Gualtieri against deploying and stationing uniformed officers at all polling locations in Pinellas County and called on him to reserve deployment for locations where there are specific, articulated safety concerns.
From the letter: “Although we appreciate your stated commitment to combating voter intimidation, we are concerned that part of your response may amplify it. Many people, especially those belonging to historically marginalized communities, find the presence of police officers themselves at polling locations to be intimidating. Black and Brown Floridians may have an especially heightened sensitivity to police presence due to the unjust killings of people of color at the hands of law enforcement throughout 2020 and in recent years, and historically. Although such presence may be appropriate if militia groups or private security genuinely threaten the personal safety of voters, these potential risks should not, and do not, justify non-emergency policing of voters of color. In other words, law enforcement presence should not be automatic, and officers should not generally be stationed at the polls preemptively. They should be deployed only in response to genuine security issues requiring their involvement.”
The letter can be found here: https://www.aclufl.org/en/letter-sheriff-gualtieri-re-armed-officials-polls.
Fair Elections Center is a national nonpartisan and non-profit voting rights and election reform organization based in Washington, DC whose mission is to use litigation, public education and advocacy to remove barriers to registration and voting, and to improve election administration.