MONTPELIER – Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Secretary of State Jim Condos have outlined laws prohibiting voter intimidation and harassment.
The guidance, released by Donovan earlier this week, cites state statutes and the penalties for intimidating or threatening a voter, interfering with someone trying to vote, and pretending to be a law enforcement officer.
The guidance comes as President Donald Trump has called on his supporters to become self-proclaimed poll watchers, claimed that the only way he could lose the election is if his opponent cheats, and instructed a white supremacist militia to “stand back and stand by.”
“It is a crime to intimidate or interfere with a Vermonter’s right to vote at the polls,” Donovan said in a written statement. “The Attorney General’s Office will enforce the laws as necessary to ensure that all Vermonters are able to peacefully exercise their fundamental right to vote without disruption.”
Vermont law protects voters from intimidation, harassment, and other forms of interference while exercising their fundamental right to vote. Prohibited conduct under Vermont law also includes efforts to remove, destroy, or otherwise hinder mail-in ballots.
“The right to vote is sacred, enshrined in our Constitution,” said Secretary Condos. “I believe all Vermonters will conduct the voting process with civility as is our Vermont tradition, rather than echoing the divisiveness we are hearing nationally. We will work with our state and federal partners to ensure no voter experiences harassment or intimidation at the polls. As a state we are better than that.”
Anyone who is suffering intimidation or harassment while trying to vote should inform their town clerk, according to the statement.
Among the possible fines and penalties are:
- $1,000 fine for interfering with a voter at polling station;
- 60-120 days in jail, a fine of $500 to $1,000 for “intentionally or recklessly creat[ing] the risk of public inconvenience or annoyance at the polls, such as fighting or engaging in violent or threatening behavior;”
- up to 1 year in prison and a fine of $1,000 for making violent threats, including pointing a firearm at another person, even if the firearm is unloaded;
- 6 months to 2 years and a fines of $500 to $1,000 per incident for impersonating a law enforcement official.