Regulation enforcement officers in St. Petersburg, Fla., stated Thursday that they might station deputies at 5 early voting websites as a precaution, the day after two armed males dressed as safety guards had been seen at a marketing campaign tent outdoors a polling station.
The boys advised a regulation enforcement official that they’d been employed by the Trump campaign to supply safety, stated Deputy Chuck Skipper of the Pinellas County sheriff’s workplace. However the county sheriff, Bob Gualtieri, stated that he had “completely no affirmation” that the boys had been employed by the marketing campaign. The boys stated they had been guards for a Florida-based safety firm, Mr. Gualtieri stated.
Thea McDonald, a spokeswoman for President Trump’s marketing campaign, stated in an announcement, “The marketing campaign didn’t rent these people nor did the marketing campaign direct them to go to the voting location.”
The boys’s presence got here at a time of pressure and fears of unrest on the polls following the Trump marketing campaign’s promise to ship “a military” of ballot watchers to voting websites. In the course of the first presidential debate, Mr. Trump urged supporters to “go into the polls and watch very rigorously.”
Mr. Gualtieri stated that whereas the boys could have made some voters really feel uneasy, they’d not violated legal guidelines.
“Unexpectedly two individuals arrived, they had been carrying tan khaki pants, they’d on blue polo shirts with a safety guard insignia on them,” Mr. Gualtieri stated. “They had been additionally armed they usually had been carrying gun belts they usually had firearms. That brought about some issues due to the heightened consciousness.”
However he added, “Their mere presence doesn’t represent voter coercion or intimidation. Some individuals may even see these individuals right here and it doesn’t give them a fantastic feeling. On the opposite aspect of the coin, it might give others feeling, as a result of they really feel protected.”
The League of Girls Voters instantly expressed concern that the presence of deputies at polling websites may itself deter voters from showing, noting a historical past of limitations to voting in St. Petersburg.
“Whereas in intention it’s actually meant to make voters really feel comfortable, given the occasions yesterday, it isn’t mandatory for regulation enforcement officers to be inside polling locations,” stated Linsey Grove, the group’s native president.
The top of the safety firm that employs the boys, Syotos, primarily based in Crestview, Fla., attributed the episode to a misunderstanding involving an off-duty worker. “We had an off-duty worker who was selecting up a member of the family who occurred to be within the neighborhood of a polling location,” the chief govt of Syotos, Trei McMullen, wrote, saying that the worker was “by no means partaking in ballot watching.”
In one other Florida incident, in Miami-Dade County, State Legal professional Katherine Fernández Rundle stated on Thursday that her workplace would look into the case of a Miami metropolis police officer who wore a face mask with a profane pro-Trump slogan to an early voting website on Tuesday whereas in uniform. The division has stated that officer, Daniel Ubeda, can be disciplined.
Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.