The November 3, 2020 election has the potential to be like no other election in recent United States history. As a result of increased mail-in voting, the likelihood is high that there will be no clear victor at the day’s end, and possibly not for days or weeks. This lack of clarity, coupled with increased polarization on both the political right and left has created an environment where the probability of protests, demonstrations, and militia-fueled violence in the post-election period is higher than normal. This follows a summer that has seen significant demonstration and protest movements around the country. Furthermore, public safety officials who have been managing responses to demonstrations have observed some protestor actions as “different, more choreographed, and more sophisticated.”
Regardless of political affiliation, all public safety leaders should commit to supporting the democratic processes and institutions that support a free and fair election. With only weeks until the election, it is imperative that public safety officials make plans now to support the election and respond in the case of challenges to the fair election process. With that preparation in mind, the Crime and Justice Institute created a framework to assist law enforcement and public safety agencies in planning for the election and post-election periods. Experienced leaders in government, law enforcement, and public policy thoroughly reviewed and contributed to the material.
Public safety leaders already plan, protect, and partner around events, including elections. However, working towards these election events, which cover three distinct periods, will require a focus on preparation that other elections did not necessitate.
The framework relies on practice, research, and data that supports the belief that there will be threats to the election process, including safety and security concerns in the post-election period. This planning process is not about politics, but about the role of the police in a democratic society – planning, protecting the community and officers, and working with partners.