Boston, MA – Massachusetts state lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban county and state law enforcement officers from maintaining order at polling locations.
State Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford) and nine other co-sponsors filed HD5270 on Sept. 18.
Under the proposed legislation, “no county or state law enforcement officers, including but not limited to sheriffs, special sheriffs, and deputy sheriffs…officers employed thereby, and persons acting on their behalf, shall be permitted on the premises of a polling place or within 300 feet of a polling place to preserve order or protect election officers and supervisors…or to aid in enforcing he laws relating to elections.”
The only exception to the ban would be in cases where the “board or officer in charge” of the city’s police force and the secretary of public safety and security both issue written permission allowing state or county law enforcement officers to be present.
The legislation was filed after President Donald Trump confirmed that he would be dispatching law enforcement officers and federal attorneys to polling locations in order to monitor elections for potential voter fraud, according to a press release issued by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Sept. 17.
“We’re going to have everything,” the President said in a recent interview. “We’re going to have sheriffs and law enforcement and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys, and…attorney generals…”
Healey labeled President Trump’s plan to send law enforcement officers to polling places as a “threat.”
“We won’t sit idle in the face of President Trump’s dangerous threats to undermine our electoral process and suppress votes,” Healey wrote. “We are issuing this advisory to ensure citizens of Massachusetts know they are entitled to free and fair elections and to put President Trump on notice that any attempt to interfere with our democracy will not be tolerated.”
She said she wanted to “make clear that intimidating or interfering with voters is illegal,” and that voters have a “right to vote safely and free from intimidation, harassment, and coercion” that is protected by both federal and state law.
Massachusetts Voter Table Director Beth Huang said that President Trump’s “threats to increase the presence of law enforcement at polling locations will lead to the intimidation of voters of color and immigrants, who have been targeted by the administration’s racist and xenophobic policies and rhetoric in the past four years,” according to the press release.
“We are working with community organizations across the Commonwealth to ensure that all voters know and exercise their right to vote safely this fall,” Huang added.
MassVOTE Executive Director Cheryl Clyburn Crawford alleged that increasing law enforcement presence at polling location qualified as an attempt to “suppress and intimidate voters.”
“The President’s threat to send military or law enforcement personnel to our polling places is, ironically, an attempt to scare individuals out of voting,” Crawford claimed. “It should not stand and will not. We applaud the Attorney General for standing so strongly on this issue, and we will support her every step of the way.”
Cabral filed the proposed legislation just one day after Healey issued her “Advisory on Poll Monitoring and Voter Intimidation.”