Experts warn of armed vigilantes at polls; Indianapolis voters not concerned

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Armed vigilantes may appear at polling sites on Election Day and participate in civil unrest following the presidential election, according to civil rights groups.

However, voters in downtown Indianapolis said they were unperturbed by warnings about potential voter intimidation and election violence.

“The threat of violence is real, particularly if (perpetrators) perceive a green light from the highest office in the land,” said Lindsay Schubiner, program director at Western States Center.

The Proud Boys’ Fort Wayne chapter appeared to step up online recruitment efforts after President Donald Trump’s remarks toward the group during the first presidential debate.

Far-right extremist groups and other fringe movements often mobilize on social media platforms, experts said.

Researchers at the Southern Poverty Law Center found no evidence of widespread coordination — online or otherwise — among extremist groups ahead of Election Day but warned voters, election officials and law enforcement agencies to be on high alert for rapidly escalating threats.

Election-related unrest is most likely to occur in battleground states — including Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — and communities with a history of far-right activity, according to Cassie Miller, senior research analyst at Southern Poverty Law Center.

No specific threats of election violence were identified in Indiana.

“I don’t think I’ve given that much thought at all,” said Kaylee Ann Gibson, an Indianapolis resident and first-time voter. 

Tiffany Hanson, another Indianapolis voter, also said she felt safe while waiting in line to cast her ballot Friday at the City-County Building. She described her early voting experience as “quite the opposite” of intimidating.

“They’ve had people passing out water and snacks, and live music!” she said.

Hanson witnessed no evidence of voter intimidation downtown but expressed concerns about voter suppression. Hourslong lines at some Marion County voting centers — including the City-County Building — could disenfranchise Hoosiers unable to take time off from work or family duties to vote, she noted.

She stood in line for more than three hours before casting her ballot.

“I saw two young men in line behind me,” Hanson told News 8. “They waited for about 20 or 30 minutes. The line didn’t move very fast and they decided to leave, so I’m afraid that’s going to happen with a lot of people.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center called voter intimidation and suppression “twin forces” that could affect Americans on Election Day and beyond but researchers cautioned against overestimating either threat.

The overwhelming majority of voters across the nation will have “uneventful” and “completely predictable” experiences at the polls, Miller said.

Ron Gee, an Indianapolis resident, said no threat or slow-moving line would deter him from participating in the democratic process.

“Don’t let them scare you out,” he said. “Just come on out and let your voice be heard.”

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