FROM THE DESK OF
Christine Cole, Executive Director
With primary season in full swing and the general election around the corner, Americans are heading to the polls to exercise a fundamental right. For many, filling out their ballot might be just another quick stop on the way to work; for others, it might be an exciting time to look forward to every few years.
But for many voters – as well as election officials, volunteer poll workers, law enforcement officers, and others – the potential for violence at election and campaign locations, as well as attempts to overturn the outcomes, has added new concerns for the safety of individuals and the integrity of our democratic process. (It’s important to note that for many people, particularly people of color, very real threats to personal safety and access to the ballot box have existed since our country’s founding, and that recent events have brought those concerns to the forefront for people who may have taken their safety and liberty for granted.)
Since the runup to the chaotic 2020 election season, a growing number of resources has become available to public safety officials, community organizations, and officials at the state and local levels to anticipate potential threats of violence – particularly from far-right groups – and to guard against them by forging stronger partnerships with each other. CJI was fortunate to work with some incredible partner organizations to produce some of these resources, which remain relevant this election season and likely for more to come.
Also in 2020, with support from the Trusted Elections Fund
, CJI created and disseminated a resource for police-community engagement to protect people’s Constitutional rights. This guide
was recently updated for the current election cycle and can be adapted to support planning and community engagement for a range of community-wide events, including elections.
The framework is based in community policing, advance planning, and a solid incident command structure. It includes steps to take at each stage: pre-event planning, during the event, and after, with specific steps for setting expectations, community outreach, safety measures, and communication. Some recommended steps in the guide include anticipating the potential for disruption and violence, building a strong network of community partners, and conducting public debriefings.
By following this guide, as well as other resources, officials, law enforcement, and community groups can work together to help ensure everyone is able to exercise their rights without fear of violence or intimidation.
We wish everyone a safe, exciting, and positive election season.