RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is recapping protections at the polls in an effort to prevent voter intimidation.

Herring said these incidents are rare but, since tensions are high this election season, he said it’s important for voters to know their rights.

Many Democrats, including Herring, have accused President Donald Trump of encouraging harassment and even violence at the polls, citing comments he made during the first debate.

“I’m encouraging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen. I’m urging them to do it,” President Trump said.

Herring said there are legitimate poll watchers in Virginia but they have to be authorized and follow specific rules. The White House didn’t respond on Thursday when asked to clarify President Trump’s comments.

Before the debate, supporters of the President chanting “four more years” at an early voting location in Fairfax, Virginia were accused of voter intimidation. Herring said this is the only report in the state he has been made aware of so far this election season. It prompted him to issue an advisory opinion outlining legal protections against voter intimidation in September.

“Voter intimidation and voter harassment will not be tolerated,” Herring said in an interview on Thursday. “There are criminal penalties in both state and federal law for engaging in that kind of conduct and I’m hopeful that we won’t see it but it’s important to make sure local officials know the tools they have just in case an incident does arise.” 

On Thursday, Herring shared an 11-minute video — which can be found here — with the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia and the Virginia Electoral Board Association to make sure they’re prepared to respond.

If people feel harassed or intimidated at the polls, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Chris Piper said the first thing they should do is tell an election officer.

“Let the election officers handle it because they’re equipped to do so and can de-escalate the situation,” Piper said. “The worst thing you can do is try to handle it yourself.”

People can also report any issues at the polls online here or by calling (800) 552-9745


ABC 8News Richmond: Your local election headquarters

More 2020 Election Coverage