JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Almost 20% of registered voters in Duval County have already cast their ballots with the majority happening at early voting sites. But there is concern over what may be happening outside those sites.
Nationwide there have been reports of people with guns at some drop-off ballot boxes. There haven’t been documented instances of that happening in Florida, but over the weekend there was concern after an incident at a Jacksonville early voting site at the Prime Osborn Convention Center where police had to be called.
According to election officials, a woman who said she was a poll watcher, not an election worker, tried to force herself inside and police were called after she was accused of striking a security guard. While it is not a major issue, it shows there is concern about what is happening surrounding the ongoing midterm election.
The convention center is not a busy early voting site but it’s the only one to report a problem so far in this election in Duval County. Officials said the woman involved in the incident tried to pass herself off as someone who would be allowed inside to watch voters.
“She identified herself as a poll watcher but did not want to give any further identification. So our team leader really didn’t have a choice, because according to the law, you have to be a poll watcher to be in the room,” said Duval County Chief Elections Officer Robert Phillips.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was called but no arrest was made. Poll watchers are different than poll workers who go through training.
“A poll watcher is somebody who represents either a political party, a candidate or political action committee, and they are eligible to be in the precinct to observe everything that goes on,” Phillips said.
There are about 100 registered poll watchers in Duval County.
The unregistered poll workers have to stay 150 feet away from any poll.
News4JAX was at several early voting sites on Monday and did not see any poll watchers but did speak with voters about their experiences outside the polls.
“Nobody got no business standing out here intimidating people,” Earl Moore said.
Richard Souls said the only problem he’s had in past elections is when those outside the polls were trying to get him to vote for a particular candidate. But he said he’s never had trouble inside and trusts the process of voting.
“I trust it. I think that’s the only one we got,” Souls said.
Early voting goes until Sunday in Duval County from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day but it varies in other counties.
For more information, visit the News4JAX Voter’s Guide.