Cops are patrolling Alabama polling stations and people suspect intimidation

Journalist Ken Klippenstein was covering the special election for Senate in Alabama on Tuesday when he noticed something troubling at a polling station.

Klippenstein had already reported that the local NAACP had received multiple reports of voter suppression tactics being used toward black voters — troubling accounts that appear to have been confirmed by users on social media — when he tweeted that he had seen multiple police enter a polling station at the Vaughn Park Church of Christ in Montomery, AL.

An unnamed NAACP official noted to Klippenstein that police officers have taken advantage of election days in the past in order to pick up voters with outstanding arrest warrants.

“Cop just arrived at the polling station I’m at here in Montgomery, Alabama,” Klippenstein tweeted on Tuesday. “NAACP official told me that in previous Alabama elections, police have checked voters for outstanding warrants at polling stations, which can deter people from voting.”

Montgomery, AL, where Klippenstein saw the police at the polling station, has a population that is almost two thirds black. The state already has some of the strictest — and often confusing — voter ID laws in the country, and the Secretary of State has already threatened to charge anyone who violates the laws with a felony. If the fact that the rules are so complex and that messing them up could land you in jail, one can imagine voters are already intimidated enough without police hovering nearby.

According to Snopes, previous rumors that people with outstanding warrants or unpaid traffic tickets could be arrested by undercover police officers at polling stations have been deemed false, but the tactic still has a devastating effect. Usually spread via fliers in largely poor, black neighborhoods, the message presents itself as a helpful warning, but is meant to intimidate people from turning out to vote.

As far as the numerous conspicuous police officers Klippenstein observed entering a polling station — and the NCAAP official’s comments about their activities in the past — the ACLU appears to have sent staff to investigate and monitor the matter.