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Law enforcement: Voter intimidation and violence will not be tolerated this election

They say they're working together to combat cyber attacks, such as campaign interference, voter fraud, which includes voter intimidation, and lastly, civil unrest.

LANCASTER, Pa. — Local and federal law enforcement have a message ahead of the upcoming election: Voter intimidation and violence will not be tolerated. 

During a press conference Monday afternoon, local and federal officials, including Commissioners Ray D'Agostino and Joshua Parsons, said they're doing everything they can to keep the election secure.

"The tremendous number of mail-in ballots is expected to make this the most challenging election we have ever had,” Commissioner Parsons said.

There are three main threats they're preparing for in the coming weeks. They say they're working together to combat cyber attacks, such as campaign interference, voter fraud, which includes voter intimidation, and lastly, civil unrest.

"The third threat, it's one that concerns me greatly. It's the threat of civil unrest," said William McSwain, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District. “Protest is fine... It is part of the fabric of our society, but we draw the line at violence. No matter who you are, no matter what your supposed reasons are, no matter what party you support, no matter what candidate you support, if you burn things, if you destroy property, if you threaten people, if you attack police officers, we are going to crack down on you as hard as we can."

Pennsylvania is an open carry state; however, officials say people cannot carry firearms at schools or court facilities which will serve as polling places.

"I am going to ask everyone to use common sense," said Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams. "Anyone that is acting in any way in the intent to threaten or intimidate any other voters, I am sure that conduct will be reported and investigated."

District Attorney Adams said she is dedicating all resources to protect voters, the process, and the community from acts of violent unrest. 

“We are very aware that the rhetoric surrounding the current general election has raised concerns over possible fraud and disturbances at polling places,” DA Adams said. “Anyone acting in any way to threaten or intimidate voters will be dealt with.”

“We are making sure to do everything possible to have a free and fair election,” added McSwain. “We want people to be confident in the election process and be confident in the results of the election.”

Lancaster County alone is expecting more than 120,000 mail-in ballot applications, and people are returning their mail-in ballots daily at the county government center.

"There is limited access to the area where they're being kept, and there is a chain of custody log being kept and monitored on a regular basis," Commissioner Ray D'Agostino said.

Other voters, like Cheryl Oakman of Holtwood, say they didn't get their ballots in the mail and are waiting to find out why and to receive new ones.

"I'm excited to see all the young people," said Oakman. "It's a little harder to vote this year, but I'm sure I'll be okay with it once I get my vote in."

Does she feel the process is secure?

"By me coming in and physically handing it to them now, yes," responded Oakman.

"I just want to make sure I vote," said Mark Freeman of Lititz. "That's the main thing. It is frustrating but given everything going on, I respect the people in this office tremendously, and what I'm really proud of is looking up and down the line is seeing all the people who are passionate about voting."

Sourced via CRIMEWATCH®: https://lancaster.crimewatchpa.com/da/11617/post/local-officials-feds-%E2%80%98free-and-fair-election%E2%80%99-tap-lancaster-county

District Attorney Adams she will have two senior attorneys lead a team on Election Day. They will respond to legal issues that arise. Ultimately, D'Agostino said the judge of elections is the person in charge of polling places. They decide if they need extra help carrying out those duties. They can call on constables who are considered the "peacekeepers" of the election. Constables, in turn, can call for police for further assistance. They are considered on "the front lines" at polling places. The final line of defense is the U.S. Attorneys Office or the FBI. However, federal laws restrict the FBI from entering polling places.

Elections in Pennsylvania are made possible by thousands of regular citizens serving as poll workers across the Commonwealth. We all depend on responsible workers to run smooth elections. Get involved today! If you are interested in becoming a poll worker, fill out the Poll Worker Interest Form.

Election complaints can be made HERE or to 1-887-VOTESPA.

Officials do not anticipate long lines Election Day due to the large number of mail-in ballot applications. However, they are asking for patience.

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