SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Santa Clara County leaders on Wednesday spoke out against national rhetoric alleging election-rigging and voter fraud that they said won’t happen at polling places when they cast their ballots on Nov. 8.
“These kind of statements may discourage voters from going to the polls for fear that they are going to be harassed,” county Board of Supervisors president Dave Cortese said during a news conference Wednesday morning at the Registrar of Voters’ office in San Jose.
Cortese said many people have asked questions since the violence that erupted after a Donald Trump rally in June outside the McEnery Convention Center in downtown San Jose, where many people were harassed and injured.
“That type of grassroots activity could quickly escalate to a scuffle or something very confrontational,” he said.
While the county doesn’t expect to see any agitators coming to its polling places, it is prepared to call on public safety agencies to address any conflicts, he said.
“The rhetoric that we’re hearing at the national level is very disturbing and very detrimental to the democratic election process,” county CEO Jeff Smith said.
More negative statements may be made at this evening’s final debate between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Trump, but Smith assured that such “unsubstantiated accusations” won’t affect the county.
“We have a fair, impartial, accurate voting system and we take it very seriously,” Smith said.
The county regularly checks its registration lists to make sure people who aren’t allowed to vote don’t cast a ballot at its 837 polling places, according to Smith.
Election officers attend a three-hour training class before working at the polls. This year, more time has been spent talking about potential intimidators who may harass voters, Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey said.
The officers have been told to be observant of people displaying campaign signs or buttons and of any intimidators, who aren’t allowed to be within 100 feet of a polling place, Bushey said.
If someone is being uncooperative, the election officers can seek additional help from the polling place inspector or field inspector, Bushey said.
More than 5,000 election officers have been hired to work on Election Day, but the registrar’s office is looking for another 500 workers, especially volunteers who are bilingual in Spanish or Chinese, she said.
An estimated 85 percent of registered voters are expected to cast a ballot in the general election, 72 of which are permanent vote-by-mail voters, Bushey said.
The county is one of the few nationwide to provide free postage for people to return their vote-by-mail ballots, which can also be dropped off at its drive-thru locations, she said.
The county offers early voting through the Registrar of Voters’ office on Berger Drive in San Jose or at designated centers, Bushey said.
Bushey invited the public to watch registrar employees test voting machines, process ballots and conduct post-election manual reviews.
The public has until Monday to register for the general election.