Election Officials Bracing for Armed Poll Watchers

Oct 27, 2016

After the campaign headquarters of Jane Dittmar was visited by armed demonstrators recently, election officials across Virginia began asking about what will happen when people show up on Election Day with firearms. 

Is it legal to show up on Election Day with a gun? That may be a simple question, but the answer is complicated. If the polling place is on private property like a church or a synagogue, the owner gets to decide. If the polling place is in a school, that’s off limits. Arlington registrar Linda Lindberg says the possibility of armed people showing up is concerning to Election Day volunteers. 

“Quite frankly, with all that’s been going on in this election cycle, they feel that their integrity has been threatened as do we the professionals. And that’s hard on them, and it puts an extra burden on them."

Credit AP Photo / Al Behrman, File

One potential pitfall is that many of these issues have never been tested. Firearms are prohibited from schools, for example, but Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says he would expect some Second Amendment enthusiasts to test that. 

“You are absolutely going to get an argument that for the purposes of polling, it’s not a school or in some instances the school is closed. I think that’s a loser of an argument. I think the fact that it’s a school is the deciding factor."

The National Rifle Association declined to answer questions for this story about whether voters should bring weapons to the polls on Election Day.