Tozer Primary School in Windsor will be one of five voting centers where an armed Weld County sheriff’s deputy will be stationed from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Election Day.
At the request of the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District, the Weld County Clerk and Recorder’s Officer will have a deputy stationed at Tozer, 501 Oak St., and four other voting sites including Mead Middle School, the Ice Haus in downtown Greeley, the University of Northern Colorado and the Weld County Training Center in Greeley.
Weld County Clerk and Recorder Steve Moreno said administration from Tozer and Mead requested the security. He emphasized there have been no incidents at Tozer in the past, but since there are children from kindergarten to second grade in class that day and voters entering the building, the school and district administrators requested the security.
“With the increased people in the building, we need more supervision for safety and we’re pleased that the sheriff’s department will be with us this day,” Re-4 Superintendent Karen Trusler said.
Moreno said he hasn’t had any complaints about the added security at the sites, and neither has the Re-4 school district.
“Not a one,” Trusler said. “There have not been any concerns about the presence of officers. Not at all. I think being able to have the officers there provides the security and safety if needed.”
Moreno said there have been some incidents in the past at the Ice Haus and UNC where security was needed, and that’s why he will place them there again on Tuesday. He said the deputies will not be paid overtime, and that they’ll be working their regular shifts.
“This is a practice that’s been in place for a number of years,” Moreno said. “We’ve had incidents in the past where we’ve actually had to ask for some help from law enforcement. There was an individual at the Ice Haus that was intoxicated and had threatened to go and get a gun and come back and shoot my staff and election judges because he was being directed to vote a provisional ballot instead of being allowed to vote the traditional way at the voting machines because he was not showing up in the poll book.”
Prior to posting deputies at UNC, Moreno said there was an incident with students.
“We had an episode where students were screaming at each other back and forth and getting very heated over the campaign supporting their favorite candidate out there,” Moreno said. “Ever since we have posted deputies, we’ve not had any incidents up there anymore.”
At the Weld Training Center, Moreno said there have been incidents where judges were being threatened by voters who were very irate because they weren’t in the poll book.
“There are a number of reasons people just get really upset,” Moreno said. “They believe that the line is way too long, and they shouldn’t have to wait that long.”
If Weld residents don’t want to vote at those sites, Moreno said they can go to other voting centers. There are 33 voting centers in the county.
“You’re not assigned to a precinct here,” Moreno said.
Weld County Republican Party chairwoman Karen Pelzer said it’s a good thing that there is added security at those sites.
“They’re posting them at locations that in the past we have had trouble where people have come trying to cause a problem and intimidate voters,” Pelzer said. “I think that’s the reason they’re doing this is to try and deter trouble at the polling stations. I don’t anticipate any trouble at Tozer, but the other ones I think it deters people from getting out of hand and I think that’s a good thing.”
Dave Young, a Democratic state representative from District 50 in Greeley, said he’s heard pros and cons on having security at voting centers.
“I think people like to know that they’re safe when they go to vote, so from the standpoint of people feeling secure and safe when they vote it’s a positive thing,” Young said. “I do think that there are people within our community that may be intimidated by law enforcement, and for them it might be a negative. I haven’t had that experience myself. I think it is a public safety issue.”
Moreno said the deputies will be noticeable at the five voting centers, but they won’t be front and center.
“They’re going to be out there, but they’re not going to be close by the checking table with IDs or over where the voting machines are,” he said. “They’ll be close by in proximity, and they’ll check in with the supervisor at the vote center if there are any issues going on. They’re not going to try to be close by the voters as they’re coming in. They’ll be in eye shot.”
Alton Dillard, public information officer for the Denver Elections Division, said they have no armed security manning the voting centers on Election Day, although there is security at the drive-through stations.
“All of our judges have gone through extensive training,” Dillard said. “They know the procedure in which to escalate in case there are any issues. Our judges are trained on what requires escalation to law enforcement. We do have police officers present at the drive-through ballot drop-offs. We have 13 of those citywide.”