No incidents of voter intimidation or interference took place in Orange County in the 2022 midterm elections.
Prior to the most recent midterm elections, concerns over election security have left many voters on edge.
In recent years, the issue has gathered more widespread attention as a result of alleged incidents at polling places, including intimidation of voters and poll workers and heated confrontations between campaigning politicians and voters.
During the early voting period and on Election Day this year, the North Carolina State Board of Elections received 21 incident reports regarding the 2022 midterm elections from across the state.
These reports included 12 alleged incidents of voter intimidation, one report of voter interference and eight alleged incidents of election official intimidation.
The reports indicated voters being photographed, an electioneer “harassing” students and a bystander harassing election workers and claiming that early voting is illegal, according to an email from Patrick Gannon, public information director for the NCSBE.
However, he said it is important to keep these numbers in perspective. During the midterm elections, over 3.75 million votes were cast in North Carolina at over 2,650 Election Day polling places and 359 early voting locations.
“Most voters cast their ballot successfully at an orderly polling place, with no issues,” Gannon said in the email.
Election security is not much of an issue in Orange County, according to Orange County Board of Elections member Jason Roberts.
Roberts said incidents of voter intimidation and other misconduct in the county are “exceedingly rare.” He said this is due to the regulations surrounding polling places.
According to Roberts, a buffer zone of 50 feet separates polling places from campaigners and other bystanders. Only election officials, voters and observers are permitted past this point.
"If there are people who are outside that buffer who are unruly we can call in law enforcement if necessary," he said.
Jamie Cox, the chairperson of the Orange County Board of Elections, also reported that the election went smoothly in Orange County, despite reports of threats and other concerns prior to the election itself.
“We've heard pre-election concerns about the potential for intimidation or violence or other misbehavior at the polling places in almost every election cycle, and it has never really materialized in any significant way,” Cox said.
While elections can create a tense and highly emotional environment for campaign staff members and election officials alike, Cox said these confrontations usually take place outside of polling places and are de-escalated before reaching a point at which the police must get involved.
According to Cox, the Orange County Board of Elections has an excellent relationship with local law enforcement, allowing the quick de-escalation of potential threats. Precinct officials are also trained in the de-escalation of situations that might lead to misconduct in polling places.
He also said the OCBOE has an excellent working relationship with officials from both major parties. This allows the board to get in contact with officials quickly in moments of tension, working to collaboratively resolve a situation that might otherwise prove disruptive or even dangerous.
Despite some concerns in the days leading up to the midterm elections, voting in Orange County went smoothly, according to Cox.
“We have an electorate that is aware and involved, and makes for a smooth process,” he said.
While incidents of voter intimidation and other election-related confrontations are rare, they are still significant, Gannon explained.
“One incident of voter or election official intimidation is too many, and we will continue to do everything we can to protect voters and election officials,” Gannon said.
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