A provision of the new Homeland Security reauthorization bill would allow armed Secret Service agents to enter polling locations at the direction of the President, and state officials in charge of elections are not happy. The bill has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and next will be considered in the U.S. Senate.
Current federal statutes prohibit any armed individuals or law enforcement officers from entering election polling places. The only exception is if it is being done in defense against an armed threat which has already taken place.
In response, 19 secretaries of state of both parties have jointly signed and mailed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
A copy of the letter was by obtained by The Boston Globe.
“This is an alarming proposal which raises the possibility that armed federal agents will be patrolling neighborhood precincts and vote centers. There is no discernible need for federal secret service agents to intrude, at the direction of the president, who may also be a candidate in that election, into thousands of citadels where democracy is enshrined,” the letter reads.
Democratic Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin issued a statement strongly objecting to the Department of Homeland Security proposal.
“This is worthy of a Third World country,” said Galvin. “I’m not going to tolerate people (armed law enforcement) showing up to our polling places. I would not want to have federal agents showing up in largely Hispanic areas. The potential for mischief here is enormous.
As might be expected, the Secret Service disagrees with Galvin and the other state officials. They said that the law change was just to clarify the situations where Secret Service agents are allowed to accompany an elected official who they have been assigned to protect.
“The only time armed Secret Service personnel would be at a polling place would be to facilitate the visiting of one of our protectees while they voted,” Secret Service spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan was quoted as saying.
In 2016 there was an incident where workers at a polling place stopped Secret Service agents from accompanying a lawmaker to vote because of their concerns that it would have been a violation of federal law.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.