Historic City News received complaints this morning from readers reporting incidents of voter intimidation by some members of the Republican Party at the early voting location of the St Johns County Public Library near Dupont Center.
We contacted Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes who said that she was aware of complaints from yesterday, but none yet this morning.
According to the Supervisor, she has verified through her attorney the limits of her jurisdiction which extends 100 feet from the actual polling activity inside the library. Beyond that, Oakes confirmed, she has no authority.
She explained to Historic City News editor Michael Gold by telephone this morning that she takes voter intimidation very seriously. Oakes reported that she sent a St Johns County deputy sheriff to the library yesterday to investigate that complaint.
At the polling site, Oakes has a clerk who is in charge of the precinct. Outside the building but on the premises is a deputy clerk who specifically monitors campaign activity and enforces the buffer zone. This morning, there is a newly briefed deputy clerk assigned to the precinct and the clerk has been made aware of the potential for prohibited activities at the polling location.
There is a chalk mark in the middle of the driveway in front of the library entrance which indicates the 100-ft measurement. The Supervisor has placed signs at each polling location in the county that establishes the “campaign-free zone” for that site. Oakes has canvassed the clerks at each precinct and is not aware of any tents, tables, or solicitors set up beyond the demarcation point.
Oakes did report that tempers flare, from time to time, and she had heard about incidents of yelling and even vulgarity exchanged between campaign workers and voters. Again, to the extent that is occurring outside the restricted area, Oakes says she has no authority to act.
We checked specifically to determine if there had been any complaints of any physical altercations at the Southeast Library or otherwise and Oakes confirmed that, so far, the complaints that have been received are limited to heated verbal exchanges or encroachment into the buffer zone.
At this point the Supervisor is monitoring the campaigners for violations and is prepared to enforce laws pertaining to voter intimidation or interference within the 100-ft limit. She told us that yesterday the campaign workers were warned not to extend their political activities closer than allowed by law.