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Advancement Project, National Bar Association Call On Law Enforcement To Stay Away From Polling Sites

Black SUV Driving into Polling Station
John Raoux
A voter enters the parking lot of a polling station to vote in Florida's primary election, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. As Florida officials try to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the state's voters headed to the polls and cast ballots in the Democratic presidential primary. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

A civil rights organization is calling on law enforcement to limit their presence at polling locations during the presidential election. This comes after a police officer was seen wearing a pro-Trump face mask inside a polling location in Miami.

While the Miami officer faces disciplinary actions the Advancement Project National Office and the National Bar Association want to ensure that such acts don’t happen again. Retired Riviera Beach Police Chief Clarence Williams who chairs the Police Reform Section with NBA thinks officers should keep away from polling locations.

"Their best position is probably outside of the buffer zones that are created. And their order of maintenance activities should be limited and great discretion should be exercised in and around polling places," said Williams.

The memorandum asks that law enforcement be used as a last resort when there is a serious and immediate threat to voter safety. As well as a restriction on police activity for low-level infractions near polling sites. The Advancement Projects Jorge Vasquez says the sight of police can be intimidating to certain communities and could discourage them from voting.

“Even having that one police cruiser in an over-policed area can have an intimidating factor. Especially if you’re in a community that is overpoliced,” said Vasquez.

The Advancement Project and National Bar Association are asking that the Florida Police Chief’s Association agree to limit law enforcement interaction with voters by stationing officers as far as possible from entrances, lines and ballot drop boxes.

So far the groups have contacted both the Florida Police Chief’s Association and other local law enforcement groups to have the memorandum addressed.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.