Pittsburgh (KDKA) — This year is like no other when it comes to pretty much everything, including the election.
But the “buffer zone” around your polling place remains the same this November. If you’re headed to vote in person this Election Day, remember to know your rights.
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller talked with Danielle Lang, the co-director of voting rights at the Campaign Legal Center.
For example, she said if you’re in line before the cut-off time at 8 p.m. on Election Day, you can still cast your vote. If you encounter a confusing mix-up with your ballot, ask to cast a provisional ballot.
“Another part we talk about when we talk about knowing your rights is the right to be free from voter intimidation,” said Lang.
She defines voter intimidation as any kind of behavior that is intended or objectively does intimidate voters.
“Or anything that makes make them feel afraid or try to induce them to vote one way or the other,” said Lang.
Things like obstructing the path from the parking lot to the polls, she said.
“It would be even heightened if you tried to obstruct that path and you were wearing any sort of military garb,” said Lang.
She also pointed out that any aggressive behavior toward voters or targeting voters based on their race is considered voter intimidation. Lang told KDKA that she does not expect to see an increase in voter intimidation this year, but Ross Township Detective Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp does.
“We’re concerned about potential issues at the polls and we’ve done a number of things. We’ve been in contact with federal authorities,” said Det. Sgt. Kohlhepp.
His fellow officers are busy prepping now.
“Extending shifts and having people work beyond a typical eight-hour shift to make sure we have enough officers,” Kolhepp said.
He said the officers will be patrolling nearby to respond to polling locations across the township.
“And it is an absolute smattering. We have churches, we have schools, we have other buildings and civic areas,” Det. Sgt. Kohlhepp.
But Lang acknowledges that not all communities are eager to call the police in an attempt to diffuse a situation. That’s why she wants to remind voters that election officials are the first line of defense.
“They themselves have a lot of authority to ensure the polling locations are peaceful, places where folks can vote free of intimidation,” said Lang.