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43 Percent of Americans Are Worried About Threats of Violence at the Polls

The poll comes amid reports that armed far right vigilantes are intimidating voters in Arizona.

A mail ballot drop box is displayed outside Philadelphia city hall on October 24, 2022. Philadelphia's 18 secure mail ballot drop boxes, positioned around the city, are monitored by security cameras and equipped with fire extinguishing systems to protect against tampering.

Over two in five Americans polled over the past week say they are concerned about being subject to intimidation or violence when voting in the midterms, new polling finds, in an alarming show of the state of democracy in the U.S.

According to a poll from Reuters/Ipsos of over 4,400 U.S. adults, about 43 percent of Americans say they are worried about facing threats at polling locations. Democrats are more likely to be concerned about violence, at about 51 percent versus Republicans’ 38 percent.

Likely fueled at least in part by the far right’s attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Americans are also concerned that groups will carry out violence after the election if they’re unsatisfied with the outcome, the poll found, with over two in three Americans saying as such.

The poll comes as there have been reports of armed far right vigilantes intimidating voters in Arizona. Though there have not yet been reports of violence, the vigilantes have apparently been taking pictures of people using ballot drop boxes and threatening to post their information online.

The vigilantes appear to have been galvanized by debunked right-wing claims that so-called ballot mules are stuffing boxes with ballots for Democrats. While there is zero evidence of widespread voter fraud or anything resembling ballot stuffing, the belief appears to have become so entrenched that vigilantes are taking it upon themselves to supposedly “guard” ballot boxes.

Despite having no basis in reality, voter fraud has become a concern among the public as well. The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that nearly half of Americans think that voter fraud is a “widespread problem,” while only 40 percent disagree. Republicans are more likely to believe in this lie popularized by Donald Trump, with two-thirds of Republicans saying they believe that widespread voter fraud is an issue and about one-third of Democrats saying as such.

There have been other threats to voters from the right. In Florida, Gov. Ron Desantis’s fascist election police arrested 20 people earlier this month, claiming that they knowingly violated election guidelines — but like many others who have been prosecuted for election-related offenses, those arrested were simply unaware of their voter eligibility status.

In this case, some of the voters arrested were supposedly previously told that they were eligible to vote, but then were arrested for illegally registering. At least 13 of the people who were arrested were Black.

The fact that concerns of violence in relation to casting a vote are so widespread and that there are already reports of intimidation is an alarming show of the erosion of democracy in the U.S.

The far right has been ramping up voter suppression efforts in recent years; between the Republican Party’s gerrymandering, plans to mass-challenge election results and infiltrate Democratic-majority polling places, or bills to flat-out allow Republican officials to overturn election results, experts say the GOP is setting the stage to rig elections so that they never lose — or effectively lose, despite voters’ will — again.

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