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New de-escalation training helping election workers manage security

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — By Indiana law, police officers or deputies cannot be stationed outside of polling places.

It’s so there is no sense of potential influence of voter intimidation.

Still, the director of elections for the Marion County Election Board tells I-Team 8 that safety and security are top of mind for workers.

“I think some of the concern isn’t just physical safety or that we’re worried about something horrific happening. It’s moreso some of those verbal interactions where people are just angry. We tried to teach our workers how to de-escalate situations, and that was a part of their training,” the director, Brienne Delaney, said.

Delaney says for the first time, election workers completed a de-escalation series through the Federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The agency’s website says:

“The De-Escalation Series for Critical Infrastructure Owners and Operators follows the Employee Vigilance Through the Power of Hello to help critical infrastructure owners, operators, and staff identify and navigate suspicious activity or potentially escalating situations to safely dis-engage and report to local law enforcement or their organization’s multi-disciplinary threat management team.”

Federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Delaney said, “Some of the things were, like, ‘Don’t say ‘calm down” because that’s kind of demeaning. It’s more like, ‘How can I help you?’”

The Marion County elections director says if workers feels unsafe, they are encouraged to report it and call 911.

Asked if any safety or security calls had been made at any of the 185 polling locations, Delaney told I-Team 8, “Zero.”

She says many election workers have asked about the weapons policy since Indiana’s permitless carry law is in effect.

“The rules have not changed,” Delaney said. “If the polling location is at a school, you cannot bring a gun into the school regardless of the permitless carry. That has always been a hard and fast rule. The rest of the locations have always been if you had a permit, you could carry a gun around in a polling location. Now, you just don’t need a permit.” 

Delaney emphasized that in her eight years on the job, she’s never seen any major security issues.

“Voting has historically been extremely safe in this country. I want voters to know that, ‘Yes, we’re taking precautions and training for workers, but it’s still really safe for voters to come out and vote,’” she said.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department told I-Team 8 that while it does not run security at polling locations, it is ready to respond to any issues that may happen.