For the first time, law enforcement will be present at polling locations in Greene County. While the County Clerk’s office says this is a safety measure, some community members are worried it will cause voter intimidation.
Sheriff’s deputies will be at certain locations in plain clothes, with their weapons and badges concealed. Initially, the deputies would be in uniform, but after some feedback about intimidation issues, the County Clerk decided no uniforms was a good balance. But some local, state and national civil rights groups are requesting this decision be canceled entirely.
“We’ve never ever had armed guards at our polls,” said Cheryl Clay, the president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP.
Throughout the day, deputies will be assisting voters but will be ready to respond if any disruptions break out.
“If anything does occur they feel safe. They are not worried and voters can continue to vote,” said Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller.
Clay says this might make some voters feel uncomfortable as opposed to safe.
“It’s setting a very questionable precedence,” said Clay. “Historically, that is been a means of voter intimidation.”
A letter sent to the County Clerk by the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, asks that he repeal the decision and instead send law enforcement where there is a legitimate safety concern.
“If something happens at a poll, I’m sure it won’t be the first time that it happens in Greene County, and that is why we have 911,” Clay said.