‘Extra tension’: U.S. voters worry about safety at the polls ahead of election

Global News

Breaking news &current latest Canadian news headlines;national weather forecasts &predictions, local news videos, money and financial news;sports stats and scores.


Click to play video 'America Votes 2020: Fears of violence, security and delayed election results'

WATCH: Security remains a big issue five days before America's presidential election. From fears of violence at the polls to potential cyberattacks, Jackson Proskow looks at the threats officials are preparing for – Oct 29, 2020

Gary Kauffman says he does not scare easily. So when men waving U.S. President Donald Trump flags drive by his house in downtown Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he stands on his front steps and waves a banner for Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

“Sometimes I yell at them. They yell back at me,” says Kauffman, 54.

Still, Kauffman is keeping a closer eye on who they are and what they’re carrying as Election Day approaches. Tension has been rising in his town, known best as hallowed ground of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. Recently, it’s become a hot spot of angry confrontations between Trump supporters and liberal protesters. Kauffman has seen some of the Trump supporters carrying weapons.

“If there’s guns, I’m a bit more cautious,” he said on Monday.

Americans aren’t accustomed to worrying about violence or safety ahead of an election. It’s a luxury afforded by years of largely peaceful voting, a recent history of fairly orderly displays of democracy. But after months filled with disease, disruption and unrest, Americans are worried that Election Day could become a flashpoint.

With Election Day next week, voters can point to plenty of evidence behind the anxiety. More than 226,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States, and cases are spiking across the country. A summer of protests of racial injustice and sometimes violent confrontations has left many on edge. Gun sales have broken records. Trump has called on supporters to monitor voting and has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power or to explicitly condemn a white supremacist group.

There was the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and another spate of violent protest this week over a police shooting of a Black man in Philadelphia.

“Human beings don’t do well with uncertainty, and there’s been a lot of uncertainty this year,” said Mara Suttmann-Lea, an assistant professor of government at Connecticut College conducting research on voting. ”Absolutely I’m seeing heightened levels of anxiety … and it’s a more general, existential anxiety — ‘What is the state of our democracy?’”

Those worries have shown up in polling. About 7 in 10 voters say they are anxious about the election, according to an AP-NORC poll this month. Biden supporters were more likely to say so than Trump supporters — 72% to 61%.

Trending Stories

For some, the worries are a vague sense of looming trouble that could take many forms — conflict at a polling place, protest over the outcome, protest over no outcome, a conflagration that splits Americans over now-familiar divisions.

“You can feel it in the energy,” particularly on social media, says Cincinnati voter Josh Holsten Sr., 42. “There are just a lot of extra tensions that don’t necessarily need to be there.”

Holsten says he is voting for Trump but thinks neither the president nor Biden is doing enough to calm people down. The car salesman has even stocked up on food, water and bulletproof vests for his family — in case the election sparks something bad.

Law enforcement and election officials are preparing, too. FBI and local officials in several states have been conducting drills and setting up command centers to respond to election-related unrest.

Election officials are training poll workers on how to de-escalate conflict and ensuring they’re prepped on the rules about poll monitoring, voter intimidation and harassment.

“The procedures have always been there. We’ve just never had to use them,” said Ellen Sorensen, an elections judge in Naperville, Illinois, outside Chicago. “Perhaps this time we may. I don’t know.”

A group called Election Protection Arizona says it intends to train hundreds of people at the polls, including on de-escalation guidance in case of confrontations.

The Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, executive director of Unitarian Universalist Justice Ohio and part of an effort to keep the peace, said the virus has fueled fear and division between Trump supporters and others.

The groups, she said, are “extreme places of tension that we really don’t want to meet at these polls.”

Millions of Americans are voting despite the worries. More than 67 million people have already voted in the U.S., and more than 23 million of those cast their ballots in person.

A poll in August by the Pew Research Center suggests that more Americans see the stakes as higher than usual in the 2020 presidential election. Twenty years ago, just half of voters said it really mattered who won. As of August, 83% express this view.

For some, that sense of urgency, combined with fierce partisanship and anger, feels like a recipe for conflict.

“November’s going to be scary because both sides aren’t going to give,” said Bob Stanley, 66, a longtime Republican and Trump supporter from Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Stanley expressed a hope shared by Republicans and Democrats: “I hope it’s going to be an overwhelming majority, or there will be trouble.”

Another Johnstown resident, Fran Jacobs, a 76-year-old Biden supporter, expressed similar concerns about whether the result would be clear, whether people would be calm and whether the world would look at the U.S. as a functional democracy.

“I’ve never been frightened for the country. I always figured we’re gonna make it. We always pull something up. And I’m really frightened this time,” she said, looking to the sky. “It’s all in your hands, I know.”


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Washington, Astrid Galvin in Phoenix and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

Новини по темі

18 Miners Killed In Coal Mine Accident In China

Eighteen people have died after being trapped in a mine in China's southwestern city of Chongqing, the official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday, the region's second such accident in just over two...

«Soft Power Propaganda Tools» : US Ends Exchange Programs With China.

The US State Department said on Friday it has ended five cultural exchange programs with China, calling them "soft power propaganda tools."

As China Restricts Access To Tibet, US Urges Nations To Make Laws Over It.

Slamming China for its "repressive" regime in Tibet, a top American diplomat has urged other countries to pass their own versions of a US law that calls for denying access to the US for Chinese...

No Deal Between US And TikTok As Asset Sale Deadline Nears: Report.

Short-form video app TikTok and the Trump administration had not come to terms over sale of the company's US operations late Friday as a deadline loomed, according to a source familiar with the...

Bahrain Becomes Second Country To Approve Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine.

Bahrain announced on Friday that it had approved the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, becoming the second country after Britain to green-light the drug.

U.S. Election: Biden officially secures electors needed to become president

Although it's been apparent for weeks that Biden won the presidential election, his accrual of more than 270 electors is the first step toward the White House.

Brexit Talks Paused, Boris Johnson, EU Chief To Hold Emergency Call.

British and European negotiators broke off their talks on a post-Brexit trade deal without agreement Friday and handed off the task of clearing the logjam to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief...

US House Backs Decriminalizing Cannabis In Historic Vote.

US House legislators voted for the first time Friday to decriminalize cannabis, a key step towards bringing federal laws in line with states and other countries that have freed up use of the drug.

«No Gigantic Inaugural Parade» : Joe Biden Wants A Safe Inauguration.

US President-elect Joe Biden said Friday that he expects his January inauguration to be a scaled-down event with an emphasis on safety because of the coronavirus pandemic.

One Killed In Blast In Pakistan's Rawalpindi: Police.

At least one person was killed and seven others wounded in a rare bomb attack in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi on Friday, police said.