RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- An uptick in harassment and violence threats involving polling locations and poll workers across the nation is changing how election officials prepare for the Midterm Elections.
"It's pretty scary. I mean, we have around the country, you know, armed people showing up at drop boxes for mail-in ballots. Here in North Carolina, poll workers going through active shooter drills," explained David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College.
He said while he's studied politics for years, it's only been recent that safety has become an issue.
"It doesn't surprise me given the climate of the country, but it is sort of disappointing," he said.
An ABC/ Washington Post poll found an increase in Americans who are concerned that political divisions are increasing the risk of politically motivated violence. Eighty-eight percent of people surveyed said they were concerned about an increase in violence.
"I get a lot of questions from everyday voters. Is it safe to go to the polls? I never thought you'd hear that. I tried to reassure them that even though there might be an incident or two on Election Day, it's very unlikely any individual will face violence at the polling places," McLennan said.
The Brennan Center, a nonpartisan organization, surveyed election officials and found "one in six election officials have experienced threats because of their job, and 77 percent say that they feel these threats have increased in recent years."
The center estimated $300 million is needed to keep workers and election offices safe over the next five years. These measures include bulletproofing offices, adding panic alarm systems, and installing surveillance cameras.
Local governments aren't taking any chances and preparing for any incident.
Durham County's Emergency Operation Center (EOC) will be partially activated on Tuesday.
"We are seeing increased threats to election officials, election workers at the polling places; voter intimidation. You see what's happening in Arizona right now. And we will not and won't stand for that here in Durham County," said Derek Bowens, Durham County's director of Elections. .
This year the county budgeted nearly $57,000 for unarmed security at polling locations. This is more than double what the county spent for security during the last Midterm Election in 2018.
Bowens attributed the increased cost to the county having more polling sites and the general cost of security going up.
Bowens said the county hasn't received any direct threats and he is more concerned about any incidents arising after the polls close.
"My concern is actually post-election when we determine who wins on an unofficial basis. I think that's when we'll see a lot more activity in that regard," he said.
Bowens also explained that many poll workers have received enhanced training.
"The State Board of Elections has put a significant amount of emphasis in their pre-election training with officials on security de-escalation techniques, how to prepare in the event of emergency. So I would say it's definitely a hot ticket priority for election offices across the state," he said.
Bowens said the continual questions regarding election integrity is a factor leading areas to beef up security and training.
"It's really sad and it distracts from the hard work," Bowens said. "We work night and day to make sure we're truly defending democracy and to have baseless attack... is very disconcerting. But nothing will stop us from doing this work because it's too important."
Wake County is partnering with law enforcement agencies. The county will not have uniformed officers at sites but will have a security presence throughout Wake County. Emergency Management personnel will also be embedded with the Board of Elections team. A Wake County spokesperson said the county has increased its security operations over the last couple of years.
Cumberland County said it will not have uniformed security at polling sites to ensure there is no unintentional voter intimidation.
You can find more information on election security here: https://www.ncsbe.gov/about-elections/election-security/10-facts-about-election-security-north-carolina
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