Because it’s 2016, training for elections workers now includes active shooter drills

Tom Trujillo (left) and Richard Bettinger have both been working in voting offices for more than a decade. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)election; ballot; vote; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;

With Donald Trump urging his supporters to go to the polls to look for fraud, the firebombing of a Republican Party office in North Carolina and the presence of armed men just hanging out for hours outside a Democratic Party office in Virginia, elections workers and volunteers aren’t just learning about how to handle ballots or what forms of ID are acceptable.

County clerks around the country and in the Denver area have added active shooter or active threat drills to the their standard training.

“The conversation this year certainly has been at a higher pitch, so we’d be crazy not to consider that in our planning,” said Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane. “We’re putting that in there assuming that everything is going to run smoothly, but we don’t want a situation where something happens and people are not prepared.”

Better safe than sorry.

Crane said his office started thinking more about security for voters and elections workers during the 2014 election, though the active threat training is new this year. His office also works with local law enforcement to make sure they know the locations of polling places and ballot drop-off spots and what is and isn’t allowed.

“Electioneering” has to stay 100 feet or more away from the polling place. Crane said people who want to participate in monitoring the election should go to their local party representatives and get certified.

“If people want to stand at a distance and watch people come in and out of a polling place, there isn’t much we can do about that, but if it crosses the line into intimidation, that’s not allowed,” he said.

Crane is hardly alone.

NPR reported that elections offices around the country are thinking more about security.

“You know, it’s unfortunate that we have to do this, but we want to be overly prepared,” Amber McReynolds, the director of elections for the city and county of Denver, told NPR. “We have added in an active shooter training into our election judge training.”

Beth Clippinger, public information coordinator for the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, said they haven’t added active shooter training for volunteers (county employees get it as a part of their regular workplace training), but the office makes sure elections workers know how to reach law enforcement, that law enforcement knows where polling places are and that polling places have doors that can shut and lock in case of a threat.

Those procedures aren’t new. What is new, though, is a plan to have law enforcement officers stationed at each ballot drop-off location all day on Election Day.

“Each year we evaluate what the climate is,” Clippinger said. “We just want to make sure that people are able to vote and those ballots are able to be removed safely without incident.”

Crane said it’s “frustrating” to hear the integrity of the election called into question and said people who have concerns should contact their county clerk for a tour. Most local offices can show people how ballots are handled and what procedures are in place to ensure no one tampers with the results.

And for voters, dropping your ballot in the mail nice and early is a way to avoid even worrying about it.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.