Nevada County Election office wary of possible voter intimidation |

Nevada County Election office wary of possible voter intimidation

One week away from Election Day, the Nevada County Elections Office is more concerned about voter intimidation than at any point in the last decade, officials said.

Assistant Clerk-Recorder Gail Smith said the office is “taking precautionary measures” to protect voters from being unnecessarily intimidated at the polls following a nationwide citizen-based movement to protect against potential instances of voter fraud in the coming election.

Nancy Garcia, president of the Nevada County Tea Party Patriots, confirmed her organization will be participating in poll watching on Election Day but emphasized the initiative is not an attack on the Nevada County Elections Office.

“There are concerns all over the country, and we don’t want to pick on Nevada County,” Garcia said. “This is not a partisan situation, but it is an American problem, and we want to help correct that problem. We want to do our work on that day to make sure there is a legal vote.”

Incidents of reported voter fraud are low in the U.S., although the Associated Press reported the state of West Virginia has been rife with instances of fraud with three elected officials resigning after allegations of ballot swaying in the 2010 Democratic Primary Election in the state.

In response to this and similar incidents scattered throughout the country, citizen groups have sprouted up.

The Election Integrity Project, California, states its mission as “a group of citizen volunteers in California seeking to fulfill our responsibility to actively participate in our Republic and ensure the integrity of the process that protects our freedoms” on its website. The organization is conducting multiple poll observer training classes throughout California.

Smith said she frets that the push toward greater election accountability could result in a repeat of an incident that took place at a Truckee polling place in 2010, where an observer became unruly. The incident went unreported at the time, but Smith said observers cannot be disruptive to the voting process.

“Our goal is to completely avoid voter intimidation,” Smith said. “It is important that people cast votes freely and that people feel safe while they are in a polling place.”

Nevertheless, Smith encourages members of the public to attend and observe the election process, as long as they adhere to guidelines.

“We encourage it,” she said.

Only a poll worker may challenge a voter’s right to vote, if the individual does not appear on the roster, is not a resident of the precinct, is not a citizen of the United States or is on parole for the conviction of felony, Smith said. If there is a challenge by the poll worker, he or she is instructed to call the Registrar of Voters, Gregory Diaz, to explain the situation. Diaz then has the authority to approve or deny the challenge.

Any poll worker who makes fraudulent or baseless challenges is subject to criminal charges and prison time, according to a memo circulated to various California elections officials by the American Civil Liberties Union of California lawyers on behalf of the Election Protection coalition.

The elections office has been in contact with local law enforcement to make them aware of potential disruptions on Election Day, Smith said.

“It’s a felony or a misdemeanor to disrupt elections, depending on the statute,” Smith said.

Garcia said her organization is non-partisan and simply wants to become more educated on how the democratic process works.

Polls open in California at 7 a.m. and remain open until 8 p.m. Nov. 6.

Voters arriving at their respective polling place will be asked to provide their names, which will be cross-checked with a list of registered voters. After the voter signs his or her name next to the name on the list, he or she will be allowed to proceed to the voting machine.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call (530) 477-4239.

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