KMGH: Poll Workers Ramp Up Security As They Brace For Election Day

SMS
KMGH: Poll Workers Ramp Up Security As They Brace For Election Day
Some safety measures include staff being walked to cars by security, panic buttons and keypad entry to doors.

There are just four days left until a consequential midterm election in Colorado. Along with collecting and processing thousands of ballots, election officials in the state are also focused on their safety as well as that of their employees.

The election comes as threats against poll workers increase in the state.

"I have had some instances in the past where people followed me back to my neighborhood and it was a bit nerve-wracking," said Josh Zygielbaum, the Adams County Clerk and Recorder in an interview with ABC News. "That prompted me to start talking with the Sheriff about personal safety. He recommended that I wear a ballistic vest whenever I feel necessary. I wear one pretty much every single day."

The first-term county clerk says he never thought election threats would escalate to this level. Zygielbaum had previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and he thought that was going to be the last time he would be wearing body armor. He never suspected it would become part of his daily life as a county clerk.

Zygielbaum is responsible for overseeing 600 election workers in the county. Since 2020, the office has made significant security upgrades to keep workers safe.

It recently spent $50,000 on those upgrades that include reinforced glass being added to the front of the office, replacing glass doors with steel-enforced doors that require badge access to enter, steel pull-downs that can lock down the office quickly in the event of an emergency, panic buttons and more.

During election time, staff are walked to their cars by security and bipartisan teams of three are sent out to drop boxes to collect ballots and keep an eye out for one another.

Over in Weld County, Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes knows all too well how serious those threats can be.

Since the 2020 election, Koppes has been a vocal defender of the integrity of elections and Colorado's election model and because of that, she has become a target for threats.

"I get regular emails that, you know, tell me I'm a war criminal or I'm going to go to Guantanamo Bay or I'm going to get tarred and feathered. There's been also some that have been a little more extreme and extravagant," Koppes said.

She has even received death threats just for doing her job. Because Weld County was already in the process of designing its new elections building in 2020, they were able to include security upgrades in the designs for added safety.

Those security measures include keypad entry to doors, separate entrances for employees, and more. Koppes says her number one priority is the safety of her staff and of voters that come to their offices.

She has been working in elections in the state for 18 years and says this is not the first time she has seen these types of threats. In the early 2000's, she says the black box group tried similar intimidation tactics on the national level that lasted seven or eight years before things finally calmed down.

"Now we kind of have this resurgence. And the thing is, I'm seeing a lot of the same talking points, the same dialect from these people," Koppes said. "I think we are going to be seeing this for, unfortunately, quite a few years. I don't think it's going to die off very soon at all. I think social media has really boosted it even more."

So for now, she is working with local law enforcement, making sure her staff is prepared and hoping Tuesday goes smoothly.

This year, Colorado lawmakers also took steps to try to protect election workers. They passed one law known as the Vote Without Fear Act to prohibit open carry of firearms around or in polling locations, central count facilities or within 100 feet of a ballot drop box around election time.

Another new law creates new protections for election officials and workers by creating two new offenses. The first make it a Class 2 misdemeanor for threatening, coercing or intimidating election officials. The second makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to publish the personal information of an election official or their family, a practice known as doxing.

This story was originally published by Meghan Lopez on denver7.com.