- US Election Assistance Commission Chairman Thomas Hicks said poll workers are counting votes “fairly and accurately.”
- He said voter intimidation was absent in nearly all polling stations across the country.
- He said that whoever prevents someone from voting is committing a crime and “should be prosecuted”.
Despite disturbing images of men in tactical gear chasing ballot boxes, there were almost no reports of voter intimidation on election day, the country’s chief election official said Tuesday.
Tens of millions of Americans vote freely and fairly, and tens of thousands of polling staff across the country are performing their duties “with high integrity and working hard to make sure that votes are counted fairly and accurately,” US Election Assistance Committee Chairman Thomas Hicks told Insider.
Hicks also had a warning for anyone seeking to intimidate or harass someone exercising their right to vote.
“If someone is eligible to vote, they should be able to do so free and without hindrance, and those who put those burdens there should be prosecuted for harassment or intimidation,” Hicks said.
“If anyone is seeking to suppress votes or is looking to intimidate voters into not casting a ballot, that is still illegal,” he added. “If anyone feels threatened, they should report it to the local law enforcement authorities, they should report this to the local election official and they should vote and not feel that fear.”
That’s exactly what happened in West Bend, Wisconsin, where police arrested a man with a knife who demanded election officials close a polling station.
While voter intimidation may seem like a new phenomenon, it is not, noted Hicks, whose bipartisan agency serves as the federal government’s clearinghouse for voting information, resources and financing, and works closely with local jurisdictions to help them administer the elections.
“The fact is that there have been people who died for our right to vote, and there have been people who have tried to restrict that right over the past 200 years to whatever class you want to get rid of,” Hicks said.
Some good news: Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, legions of younger Americans have volunteered to become polling staff and help run elections — a patriotic act, he said.
“I see this as another way to serve our country,” Hicks said.
But he admitted that voting in the United States is not perfect.
There are still many challenges. Sometimes counting votes is slow, he said, and people need to “be patient”. Election interference remains a constant threat. Former President Donald Trump, among others, continues to spread lies about elections past and present.
And at the pedestrian level, the quality of voting equipment and systems may not be uniform across the country, as indicated by a proven Brennan Center for Justice and Voting study this year.
Hicks said an “influx of earmarked funding” is necessary to ensure that voters everywhere can count on well-run and effective future elections.
“They want to make sure they have the best possible equipment to do their job,” he said of election officials.