COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Outside the Franklin County Early Voting Center, candidates and campaign workers rush to put a piece of literature in your hand and get a last word in your ear as you head inside to vote. They have to stay outside a painted yellow line that marks 100 feet from the front door of the polling place.
David Payne, Deputy Director of the Board of Elections say they’ve received a couple of complaints this year from people who said winding their way through the mass of eager campaigners made them uncomfortable. However, Payne explained that has long been part of the process and is entirely legal.
The Ohio Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit this week against the Donald Trump campaign and a longtime Trump adviser, claiming they are engaged in tactics that constitute voter intimidation.
In recent speeches, Trump has been encouraging voters to go to the polls and “watch.”
“And when I say watch, you know what I’m talking about, right?” Trump told supporters in Akron.
Payne says official observers are typically representatives of the political parties and are registered and trained ahead of time.
“Observing is part of the process and we encourage that, but we also want to make sure the observers are trained to know what they’re allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do,” Payne said.
“They’re not allowed to touch any poll books, not allowed to touch any of the equipment. They’re allowed to do what the name implies: They’re allowed to observe.”
Outside, it’s a different story. Once voters are inside that 100 foot line, campaigners must leave them alone. But up to that point, candidates, campaign workers and others can approach voters. Given the rhetoric of this year’s campaign, there is some concern that those interactions could get too aggressive.
Early voter Irving Hunter, a Marine, he’s not easily intimidated.
“You shouldn’t be intimidated,” Hunter said. “It’s not about being intimidated out here; it’s about making the right decision for the right movement and the right direction for our country.”
Payne says poll workers are well trained to handle any issues at the polls including voter intimidation.
“On Election Day, I would encourage anyone who feels intimidated by anyone to let the voting location manager know or poll workers know and we will be right on it,” Payne said. “We won’t tolerate intimidation at all.”