Voting advocates brace for tense day at the polls -

Voting advocates brace for tense day at the polls

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(Credit: KMOV) (Credit: KMOV)

ST. LOUIS ( -- In one week, voters will head to the polls. There has been a lot of tension this election season and some groups are worried that will carry over to voting places.

Every election, groups of lawyers are mobilized to be on hand just in case voters get to the polls and something doesn't seem right.

"This is your right, as a citizen everyone should participate in this process," said Steve Harmon, a partner with Election Protection in St. Louis.

Harmon and other lawyers are partnering with the nation's largest nonpartisan operation dedicated to making sure all voters can cast ballot. This year, they are especially watching out for intimidation.

"People cannot interfere with or intimidate you at the polling place. People cannot be any closer than 25 ft from the doors at poll. And voters have right to cast ballot free from barriers or intimidation at polls," said Denise Lieberman, with Election Protection.

But, it will be a busy place at the polls this year with challengers, observers, and campaigners all expected.

"We respect the right of people to observe the elections process. We know that can help bring transparency. But first and foremost we have to make sure voters are not hampered in their ability to access polls or feel intimidated at the polls and there are concerns and they are valid concerns that there may be more aggressive tactics at polls this year," said Lieberman.

Volunteers with Election Protection are trying to make sure voters understand their rights and know who is who. Challengers are certified by a party and can be inside the polling place. They can question if a voter is eligible. Even then, a voter can still cast a provisional ballot.

"We have heard the political parties have called for additional challengers this year. Obviously the more people you place inside the polling place who have the ability to insert themselves into the voting process,  it raises the potential for concerns about voters’ ability to cast ballot as well as concerns about disruptions to the process or long lines," said Lieberman.

Everyone else, including observers and campaigners must be outside and 25 feet from the door. The group is stressing intimidation of voters is illegal and anyone who is disrupting or interfering with the voting process can be asked to leave.

With the extra people and scrutiny, some worry that will make lines longer.  Polls close at 7 p.m. in both Missouri and Illinois. Election Protection leaders are reminding voters if they are in line at a polling place at 7 p.m., they still have the right to cast a ballot.

Lawyers with the group plan to be outside of polling places across the country and here in the st. Louis area to answer questions or concerns next Tuesday. They have also set up a hotline for people to call, 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).           

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