Platkin issues updated guidelines on law enforcement involvement in election activities

Acting Attorney General Platkin issues updated guidance on

Involvement of law enforcement in electoral activities and protections

Against illegal voter intimidation

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TRENTON- Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today issued guidance to New Jersey law enforcement officials regarding new rules regarding election-related law enforcement activities. The acting attorney general also reinforced past guidelines aimed at ensuring that all eligible voters can vote safely and without fear of intimidation.

Originally released in 2020 following troubling reports of election interference in other states, and updated in 2021 to reflect New Jersey’s historic adoption of in-person early voting, the guidelines are now updated to reflect the enactment in January 2022 of legislation that imposes new limits on the activity of law enforcement officers around polling stations, early voting locations and ballot boxes.

“New Jersey is fully committed to protecting the right to vote in free and fair democratic elections,” Acting Attorney General Platkin said. “The role of law enforcement in elections is limited, but we have zero tolerance for criminal acts of voter intimidation or interference.”

The updated guidance is directed to chief law enforcement officers and county prosecutors across the state, and emphasizes that civilian election officials — not law enforcement officers — are charged to administer elections at the county and local levels.

At the state level, the Division of Elections within the Office of the Secretary of State has election administration responsibilities, not the Department of Law and Public Safety or the Office of the Attorney General.

In light of recent legislation, today’s guidelines highlight five key rules designed to protect the voting process in New Jersey while avoiding polling places, early voting sites and ballot boxes that may be disconcerting or intimidating for some residents.

They understand:

  • Although a poll worker may request police officers to help maintain peace and order in and around an advance polling place or polling station, a poll worker cannot such a request only with respect to a “specific emergency, allegation of criminal conduct, or disturbance that exists at the time the request for assistance is made.” When such a request is made, officers responding to the call may only remain on site long enough to deal with and resolve the emergency, criminal allegation or disruption.
  • When an officer is sent to an early polling place or polling place, the Secretary of State must be notified by the county board of elections or the county superintendent of elections. The Secretary of State, County Boards of Elections, and Election Superintendents must maintain a record of such dispatches, including information such as time of dispatch, location of polling place, and reason for dispatch. dispatch, together with the name of the officer involved, the badge number, the duration of the presence of the officer on the scene and the immediate outcome of the incident.
  • Police officers may continue to assist, and be tasked with assisting, election officials in transporting specific election materials to and from an early voting location, polling place, or ballot box.
  • No police officer – whether on duty or not, in uniform or not – may remain or stand within 100 feet of an advance polling place, polling place or ballot box during an election, unless the officer is there at the request of election officials in response to a specific emergency. Exceptions apply, such as if an officer’s residence is within 100 feet of these locations or if the officer votes in a personal capacity.
  • No full-time or part-time law enforcement officer may serve as a poll worker or authorized candidate in elections unless that person is on leave. Under no circumstances may an officer participating as a poll worker or authorized protester wear the uniform of a police officer or carry an exposed weapon.

As with previous election guidelines, today’s update reiterates that federal and state laws protect all members of the public from intimidation and coercion, interfere with the right to vote, or tamper with, mutilate or destroy a ballot box, and that individuals engaged in voter intimidation or obstruction may also violate laws that do not specifically relate to elections.

Acting Attorney General Platkin’s updated guidance is posted at:

https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/2022_Law-Enforcement-Guidance-for-Elections.pdf

Residents concerned about voting and elections are encouraged to call the Division of Elections at its Voting Information and Assistance Line: 877-NJVOTER (877-658-6837). For more information, please visit the NJ Division of Elections Voter Information Portal at https://nj.gov/state/elections/vote.shtml.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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