Two uniformed Durham County, NC sheriff’s deputies were turned away from an early-voting site this week in what the county’s Board of Elections now calls a “mistake.”
The two officers went to the Main Library polling place downtown this week but were turned away by election officials, the county’s election director, Derek Bowens, confirmed.
Not only were the officers told they couldn’t vote; They were told they couldn’t enter the polling station at all, according to the News & Observer.
“There was concern from an intimidation standpoint about weapons from the site coordinator,” Bowens said. “She did voice concerns to the sheriff, but that was completely an error in terms of not letting them come in … There is no direct statutory prohibition to weapons in the voting enclosure, but if it is causing intimidation and uproar it is the responsibility of that site coordinator to maintain peace and good order.”
Former Sheriff Mike Andrews posted about the incident on Tuesday and called the Durham Board of Elections “the problem.”
“I worked for 39 years in a uniform (and) never was turned away,” he said.
A Sheriff’s Office spokesman said the two officers were informed they could go back to the polling place and vote, and soon after the issue was “resolved quickly.”
But this is just the latest example of election officials trying to keep uniformed law enforcement officers away from polling places, according to state Sen. Ralph Hise.
“Uniformed police officers put their lives on the line to protect our community, and the Board of Elections just denied them the fundamental right to vote. This outrage is the natural result of the partisan Board of Elections’ chaotic power grabs,” Hise said in a statement. “They’ve thrown this election into chaos with each subsequent ‘rule,’ and they’ve already been rebuked by multiple federal judges for usurping the legislature’s authority by rewriting election laws with voting already underway.”
Last week, the State Board of Elections, which is controlled by the Democratic Party, passed a rule forbidding election officials from stationing law enforcement at polling places, calling their presence “intimidating.”