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Elections Security – Protecting Campaign Volunteers

Elections Security - Protecting Campaign Volunteers
Ensure the safety of campaign volunteers during elections. Learn about the risks they face, from physical harm to psychological stress, and how to protect them effectively.
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As we now stand just months away from the most imporant elections in America and political candidates are being prepared to enter the race, it is necessary to discuss an issue that doesn’t receive enough  attention: The safety of campaign volunteers. You see, any attacks toward them will never receive the same media attention that attacks toward political candidates generates.

A week ago, we received a call from a lady who was in charge of a candidate’s booth, and while she did informed us that people were becoming more violent toward volunteers and one of them had been stabbed in the neck with a pen (?!?), she was still trying to receive a low end offer. Although we provided her with a safety offer designed especially for her needs, she was looking for something “much cheaper”. Of course, we didn’t take this contract, but it did made us think…When people/clients actively see the issue and the threat, why do they still insist on low end service and a false sense of safety?

During political campaigns, volunteers play an important role in spreading the message, engaging voters, and supporting their candidates. However, these dedicated individuals frequently face a range of dangers while manning political booths. While their candidates may receive proper protection, that very same level of protection is not provided to their volunteers.  As tension is rising more within society, people are becoming more violent and more “creative” with ways of showing their aggression or disagreement. In 2020, a Florida man was arrested for crashing his vehicle into a Trump campaign tent in Northeast Florida where volunteers were working on a voter registration drive.

In May 2023, A man armed with a baseball bat attacked and injured two staff aids, because he was demanding to see Representative Gerald E. Connolly.

Volunteers at political candidates’ booths can be exposed to different risks, such as:

  1. Physical Harm: The polarized political climate and societies tension can lead to confrontations, sometimes escalating to physical violence. Volunteers might face aggressive behavior from opponents, creating a hostile environment.
  2. Verbal Harassment: Insults, threats, and derogatory remarks are common, especially in highly competitive races.
  3. Theft and Vandalism: Political booths often contain valuable materials, including electronic devices, campaign merchandise, and volunteers’ personal belongings. These booths can be targets for theft and vandalism, posing a risk to both volunteers and campaign resources. Unfortunately, confidential information can and may be present at these types of events and needs to be safeguarded at all times.
  4. Psychological Stress: The constant pressure, combined with potential exposure to hostile interactions can lead to significant psychological stress for volunteers who may experience anxiety, fear, and burnout.

There have been several documented instances of political volunteers being attacked while working at campaign booths. These incidents bring to light the risks volunteers face and emphasize the importance of implementing protective measures to keep them safe. As we have seen far too often, campaign booths do not receive the same protection as some candidates do, and those who are offered security aren’t given the same budget for it. Sadly, it is, yet again, the age-old example of someone asking for the lowest bid to assure volunteers and give them peace of mind and a false sense of security.

It is truly important for campaign managers to take this into consideration because it is an important issue and needs to be addressed. The well-being of their booth’s volunteers can be achieved by implementing several basic protective measures such as:

  1. Hire private security officers: A professional licensed private security company can help you with risk and threat assessment so you are aware of the risks your volunteers may be dealing with. They will offer you a specially designed protective plan and assign vetted and licensed security officers. The presence of security personnel or community volunteers can act as a deterrent to potential troublemakers. Keep the honest…honest.
  2. Conflict Management Training: Conflict management training can equip your volunteers with skills to de-escalate conflicts, handle different stressful situations, and recognize potential threats.
  3. Encourage Buddy System: Ensuring your volunteers work in pairs or groups can enhance their safety. A buddy system not only deters potential aggressors but also provides immediate support in case of an incident.
  4. Use SOPs: Establishing clear protocols and SOPs for various scenarios, including emergencies, attacks etc., can ensure your volunteers know exactly how to respond in each situation. This includes having a direct line of communication with your campaign headquarters and local authorities.

Volunteers are the backbone of your political campaigns, dedicating their time and energy to support their chosen candidates. Recognizing and addressing the dangers they face is not only a moral obligation, but also essential for the success of any campaign. As the political landscape continues to evolve and we are entering turbulent times as election day comes closer, prioritizing the safety and well-being of volunteers is a critical component of ethical and effective campaign strategies.

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