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VERIFY: Who to contact if you feel intimidated at the polls

A viral meme urges voters to call the FBI if they see 'poll watchers' impeding their ability to vote. We're taking a look at who you should actually contact.

An internet meme urges Americans to call the FBI if they fear “an alleged poll watcher” is impeding their right to vote at the polls. It also advises snapping a photo of the person. But is this correct?

THE QUESTION:

Should you call the FBI and should you take pictures of a person interfering with your ability to vote at a polling place?

THE ANSWER:

No, don't call the FBI. And it depends on your state with regard to taking photos.

WHAT WE FOUND:

“Our general advice to voters who feel intimidated at the polls would be to alert the officials at the polling place about the situation,” said Nicolas Y. Riley of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at the Georgetown University Law Center. 

The Advancement Project, a multiracial civil rights group, suggests documenting incidents and reporting them to the voter’s county board of elections and district attorney. But don’t confront the intimidator, it says. 

The number on the meme is valid but goes to the Voting Section of the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The FBI is a separate division of the Justice Department.

Riley recommends calling Election Protection (866-OUR-VOTE), a nonpartisan coalition of 100 local, state and national partners that works to ensure voter rights about an incident.

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“If the voter feels physically threatened or endangered, then we'd advise the voter to call 911,” he said. “There may be some states where the voter is allowed to record the incident -- assuming it is safe for the voter to do so -- but that's not the case in every state.

“Many states -- but not all -- prohibit people from recording or photographing activity that occurs inside the polls on Election Day,” Riley said. Some states also restrict recording or photographing people outside the polls without their consent.

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