Washtenaw County community leaders issue joint statement on election safety, integrity

Voters enter Pioneer High School in the final hour of Election Day on March 10, 2020. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – Leaders in Washtenaw County issued a joint statement on Friday morning expressing concern over safety as voters drop off their ballots and head to the polls on Tuesday.

The contentious environment surrounding the election and its aftermath, as well as feedback from community leaders, has the group worried about what voters might experience this election.

The statement was issued by the Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Milan, Northfield, Saline, Ypsilanti, Eastern Michigan University and University of Michigan police departments, the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, Washtenaw County, Michigan State Police and Rep. Debbie Dingell.

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In the letter, the leaders said they are working on both state and federal levels to ensure voter safety, voting integrity and vowed to address any voter intimidation and post-election violence.

See the full release below:

"Many members of our community, including our local faith leaders, have expressed reasonable unease and vulnerability in connection with the upcoming election and its potential aftermath. Much of the concern is in response to the seemingly increased level of vitriol, threats of violence and division we have observed throughout our country.

"While there are currently no known threats related to election integrity, polling location safety, or community safety post-election, Washtenaw County leaders want to assure residents that we are working with each other and our federal and state colleagues, to do everything we can to plan for and ensure the safety of everyone in our community.

"In this time of uncertainty, we affirm our commitment to maintain and support the democratic process and the orderly and just administration of civil society upon which the success of the American experiment depends.

"To that end, please note the following;

• Washtenaw County Clerk, Larry Kestenbaum has consulted with all of the local election officials to ensure voting integrity. (Please refer to the community communication issued by the Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office on 10/29/2020)

• All local law enforcement agencies have worked together to develop risk mitigation and response protocols designed to protect against voter intimidation and to ensure voter safety.

• Voter Intimidation - It is a crime for a person to menace a voter at or near a polling place with the intent to influence their vote or deter them from voting. MCL 168.932(a) makes it a felony for a person to “attempt, by means of bribery, menace, or other corrupt means or device, either directly or indirectly, to influence an elector in giving his or her vote, or to deter the elector from, or interrupt the elector in giving his or her vote at any election held in this state.”

• If you believe that you are the victim of voter intimidation as described above, immediately contact the election official at your polling place. The election official will evaluate the situation and initiate the appropriate action. This action may include notifying the local police agency.

• If you believe that your personal safety or the safety of others is compromised by the actions of others at a polling location. Immediately contact the election official at the polling location and/or call 911.

• Local law enforcement leaders in consultation with the municipal and township elected/appointed leaders have developed strategies that support post-election community safety. These efforts include measures to protect members of the public who choose to peacefully exercise their first amendment rights.

“Please consult your local officials or local law enforcement agency with questions regarding this release.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.