Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller is being asked by some group leaders to rescind his directive to deploy law enforcement officers to polling locations Tuesday.
The first request came in an email sent to Schoeller Sunday by the Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization.
The organization said that placing police at poll sites can be inherently intimidating to voters, and instead suggests police should be in polling sites only where a specific and legitimate law enforcement need justifies that presence.
In a follow-up statement issued Monday, officials with the Springfield NAACP and Missouri Faith Voices said they “have some serious concerns” about the decision.
Schoeller’s request to the sheriff, who has agreed, asks for deputies stationed at various polling locations Election Day wearing plain clothes, a badge and a concealed weapon. The Greene County clerk said in a statement over the weekend the directive was in response to safety concerns expressed by voters and election judges “due to the tension and conflict they have witnessed or experienced related to this election cycle.”
The Advancement Project, in its statement, says for this very reason “the last thing we need is to add an element of voter intimidation by stationing police at the polls. He must stand down and let voters access their polling places without risking intimidation.”
Schoeller acknowledged to the Springfield News-Leader Monday he had received the letter, but declined to comment on it and said the county was moving forward with its plans. He had earlier stated that his plan is in an effort to be proactive.
“If an incident occurred and we were not properly prepared to respond, questions would certainly be raised as to why there was not a plan and those concerns would be valid,” he said.
The Springfield NAACP and Faith Voices says it’s troubled that the decision was made without any effort to communicate with representatives from the communities most affected.
“We are concerned this may affect not only who will vote but also how people will vote.”
In continues, “We only wish the Clerk had undertaken the necessary planning to make sure his hard working staff had enough help to get the newly registered voters entered into the system in time to receive their voter registration cards. The deadline for new registrations was October 12th. An influx of new registrations is always expected during highly contested presidential elections. He also needs to inform the public that people who did not receive their cards are still entitled to vote and he needs to explain what identification they need to bring to the polls. Furthermore, he needs to publicize that people who move within Greene County can still vote by going to the designated polling location for their current address.”