PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia district attorney delivered a stern warning that voter intimidation will not be tolerated. Larry Krasner is worried about potential voter intimidation at polls as he announced Wednesday that he is beefing up his office’s Election Task Force.
A steady stream of voters waited to turn in their ballots outside of Philadelphia City Hall on Wednesday afternoon. It’s one of several satellite election centers in the city.
“There was a line, but it moved very quickly. Everybody’s wearing masks and standing six feet apart,” Chuck Butan said.
“Very smooth, very easy, no intimidation,” said Jim Lynch.
But that isn’t always the case. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Election Fraud Task Force hotline received 95 calls during the last presidential election in 2016, up from 93 calls in the 2012 election.
Some of those calls are simple how to’s, but Krasner is anticipating this election to see a surge of calls to the hotline with reports of possible voter intimidation or even violence at the polls.
“Anyone who comes to the cradle of American democracy, to try to suppress the vote and violates the law, is going to find themselves in a jail cell,” Krasner said.
Krasner is expanding the DA’s Office Election Task Force, headed by assistant district attorney Andrew Wellbrock.
“We’re particularly looking for, with these satellite election offices, any presence of voter intimidation,” Wellbrock said.
He also says, starting on Wednesday, its Election Task Force hotline will be available for people to report possible cases of voter intimidation.
“In Pennsylvania, it’s a felony of third degree, punishable with up to seven years in jail to block the door or attempt to block the door on Election Day,” said Wellbrock.
The goal of Philly’s Election Task Force is to make sure every eligible Philadelphian is able to vote without harassment, intimidation, or violence, during what the district attorney calls an unprecedented election season.
“We do have some concerns this year about the possible presence of unlawful, heavily armed, so-called militia groups purporting to protect the election at the polls,” said Georgetown law professor Mary McCord.
Meantime, in a one-on-one exclusive interview, Pennsylvania’s top election official, State Secretary Kathy Boockvar, said her office is working with local and state agencies to tackle voter suppression, something she points out is extra important for a swing state like Pennsylvania.
“We have greater collaboration happening between law enforcement and emergency management in elections than we’ve ever seen in this commonwealth,” Boockvar said.
She also says voter registration may be an all-time high. At least 92,000 ballots have been returned.
Those who want to report voter intimidation can call the city’s Election Task Force hotline at 215-686-9641. Also, the national nonpartisan Election Protection hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE.