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Citizen poll watchers out in Kent County to prevent voter intimidation

Several citizens are traveling between polling places to investigate reports of possible intimidation
Posted at 3:31 PM, Nov 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-03 22:00:58-05

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — A group of civilian poll watchers are traveling between different polling locations across the county to investigate reports of possible voter intimidation.

FOX 17 received a call from a viewer around lunchtime Tuesday about a group of people set up at a table near the precinct 4 polling location on Plainfield Ave, believing it to be an act of voter intimidation.

When our crew arrived on site, elections officials were measuring the distance between the group's table and the polling location. They found the group, who was collecting signatures to recall Governor Gretchen Whitmer, were beyond 100 feet away from the building and within their rights.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or who you are voting for, we have to make the process smooth and rightful so everybody has the same chance,” Lucy Kessler told FOX 17 at the Precinct 4 polling location.

Kessler, her husband, and several other people are working to investigate claims of voter intimidation around Kent County Tuesday.

“I live very close to here," Kessler said. "He told me that somebody reported that they had a situation here, he said we need to check that they are closer than 100 feet.”

She was satisfied that nothing illegal happened once the distance was measured.

“We want to be sure that everybody is exercising the right to vote,” Kessler said. She and her husband were connecting with others around the county via a Zoom video call, so everyone could stay in constant communication.

The lines at that Plainfield Township location wrapped around the building at lunch time.

“I would say our line was about 45 minutes to an hour,” Tim Vanstensel told FOX 17 after voting.

But just a few hundred feet away, the polling location at Frontline Community Church was only about 4 people deep during the same period of time.

Over in Alger Heights, at Seymour Christian Reformed Church, lines were minimal late afternoon. A poll worker said they too had a line wrapping around their building when they initially opened the doors at 7:00am.

28-year-old Damarcguize cast a ballot for the first time at Seymour on Tuesday.

“It's our first time voting so, it went by pretty smoothly. The process behind getting in and out was actually pretty quick honestly,” he told FOX 17.

“With all the issues and social injustices going on in the world, it just felt like this election was more at heart, a lot more going on at stake. So, I felt like it was more important to vote.”

After voting for the first time, he says he plans to make a habit of voting in future elections.

“I mean people always say their vote doesn’t count, but once you actually do it, it’s a lot more powerful,” Damarcguize said.

“It feels great.”

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