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Legal Scholar Urges Ada County Law Enforcement To Protect Polling Places

Frankie Barnhill
Boise State Public Radio
A legal scholar at Georgetown Law School is urging Ada County law enforcement to protect polling places from the threat of armed people showing up to illegally monitor the vote.

A legal expert sounding the alarm about voter intimidation is asking Ada County law enforcement to protect voters.


Former federal prosecutor Mary McCord is concerned armed poll watchers could disrupt elections and she’s asking local law enforcement to protect voters. 

She’s sent letters to cities and agencies across the country, the latest being the Boise and Garden City police departments and The Ada County Sheriff’s Office.


McCord’s campaign started after armed counter-protesters began coming out to anti-racism protests around the country, sometimes sparking confrontations.


In her letter, McCord raised the possibility that armed paramilitary groups could show up armed on Nov. 3 as freelance poll watchers.


“But they have no authority to do that, and their armed presence would, of course, be very intimidating,” she said in a phone interview.


Idaho has many far right groups associated with what’s known as The Patriot Movement and has seen recent incidents such as the storming of the Idaho Statehouse by Ammon Bundy and his followers. Bundy was eventually arrested when he refused to leave a committee room. 


There have also regularly been armed protesters in Boise, including some associated with Idaho militia groups.


McCord’s letter is part of a broader campaign to convince states to crack down on militia groups, who McCord says often operate against state laws. She has also sent letters to Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene, cities that saw armed shows of force this year in response to false rumors about Antifa coming to town.


McCord points to an Idaho law that prohibits private paramilitary groups from acting like the military. She also points to an attorney general opinion declaring it unlawful for private groups to act as law enforcement.


Neither the Ada County Sheriff’s Office nor Boise Police Department responded to requests for comment.


Follow Heath Druzin on Twitter, @HDruzin

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

Heath Druzin was Boise State Public Radio’s Guns & America fellow from 2018-2020, during which he focused on extremist movements, suicide prevention and gun culture.