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Prosecutors Release Guidance With Polling Place Rules, Warn Intimidation Schemes Will Be Prosecuted

Matt Slocum
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke fills out his ballot at the opening of a satellite election office at Temple University's Liacouras Center, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Philadelphia.

Prosecutors across the state are collaborating with election workers to ensure in-person voting on November 3rd goes smoothly.

President Donald Trump has routinely been sowing doubt about election safety on the campaign trail, specifically false narratives about Pennsylvania and other battleground states.

But Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and Attorney General Josh Shapiro have repeatedly said there are multiple layers of security to ensure voter safety as well as a fair and free election.

The state’s election website outlines the protections. Among them are new voting machines that have a verifiable paper record and are now standard across Pennsylvania. County election offices also conduct post-election audits and the state encrypts its voter data.

Voters can also now access a legal guidance sheet that details state election rules and what behavior voters should keep an eye out for

County district attorneys like Stefanie Salavantis of Luzerne County helped put it together.

“This is more of a precautionary measure to make sure that there are no issues. I know that this has been a focal point for this election,” Salavantis said.

The legal guidance sheet clarifies the roles of poll workers, watchers and even police, reminding them what they can and cannot do on November 3rd.

For example, police officers can be present “for the purpose of preserving the peace,” but have to be at least 100 feet away. Poll watchers have to follow specific rules, if they wish to challenge any of the votes cast, and according to state law, “may not engage voters or otherwise interfere with the process of voting.”

The information also makes clear things like voter intimidation and ballot tampering are serious crimes that will be prosecuted. Those who attempt it can be charged with an array of crimes, some of which carry serious penalties.

“People are paying close attention to this election,” DA Salavantis said “We just want to make sure that everybody knows they are free to go and vote and that law enforcement is paying close attention to what’s going on and not to be scared to go and vote in person.”

Attorney General Shapiro said in a statement Thursday state government is working to prevent election disinformation from dissuading voters from participating.

“By working together, public officials have made voter fraud in Pennsylvania extremely rare, and we will continue that collaboration to prevent the intimidation of voters anywhere in our Commonwealth,” Shapiro said.

According to early voting estimates, more than 1.1 million Pennsylvanians have already cast their ballots.

WITF’s Emily Previti contributed reporting to this story.

Read more from our partners, WITF.