Police Presence at the Polls Could Suppress Turnout

Testimony by NJPP President Brandon McKoy in support of limiting police presence at polling locations.

Published on Oct 26, 2020 in Democracy and Media

The following testimony, on A4655, was delivered to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on October 26, 2020.

Thank you, Chairman Burzichelli and members of the committee for this opportunity to speak with you today.

My name is Brandon McKoy, I am President of New Jersey Policy Perspective, and I am testifying in support of A4655 to help ensure there is limited police presence at voting locations. The simple fact of that matter is that this year’s elections are incredibly pitched and, as such, have invited significant and drama. Unfortunately, comments and actions by the President and many others at the federal level have telegraphed a serious interest on their part in suppressing the right and ability of citizens to vote. Furthermore, due to excessive police behavior and repeated instances of gross brutality – especially over the course of the past several months and years – the relationship between law enforcement and marginalized communities has eroded significantly. As such, unnecessary police presence at voting locations would at best result in additional stress and anxiety on the part of the voting public as they exercise their rights, and serious suppression and disenfranchisement at worst.

To protect the faith and trust of all people in the voting process, this bill, along with its recent amendments, should receive your support and be passed out of committee.

As New Jerseyans, we don’t need to look very far for instances where police presence at polling locations suppressed the vote. The 1981 gubernatorial election is infamous for the manner in which off-duty officers were sent to predominantly Black and Hispanic areas to intimidate voters. Such a terrible occurrence will forever be a stain on our history, and it represents yet another compelling reason why we must do all we can to prevent a similar scenario from ever happening again. This bill will help ensure such success.

While the President has made awful threats that will likely mobilize some of his supporters to work against basic democratic principles, all of you – as elected officials entrusted to protect the rights and welfare of your constituents and all residents of our great state – have the ability to prevent such terrible outcomes and avoid flirtations with the dangerous and corrupt. Please support A4655 today so that all New Jerseyans can vote with a peaceful mind, not having to worry that they will be targeted simply for exercising their civic duty.

Thank you for continuing to enable remote testimony during these challenging times and for treating the pandemic with the seriousness it deserves while protecting the principles of an open and transparent government. I greatly appreciate your time and consideration, and wish you all a wonderful day.

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