By Alexander Bolton - 10/17/12 09:00 AM EDT
Police departments around the nation are not anticipating civil unrest on Election Day despite arguments between liberals and conservatives over whether President Obama’s defeat could spark riots.
In 2008, police departments in Oakland, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia revealed they were taking special precautions in case public reaction to the election spiraled out of control.
Tensions were running high four years ago after the disputed results of the 2000 presidential election and long lines at polling places in poor urban areas in 2004.
Police departments appear much less concerned about this year’s election.
Spokesmen for the Detroit and Philadelphia police departments said no special measures would be deployed for Election Night.
“We’re not anticipating civil unrest on Election Night,” said a spokesman for the Detroit police department who did not give his name. “We’re going to collect the ballots like we usually do. If a situation arises and we need to respond, we’ll respond to the scene and assess.”
In 2008, James Tate, then the second deputy chief of the department, told The Hill that extra manpower would be assigned on Election Night and noted that police had to control rioters who vandalized cars after the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.
Spokesmen for police departments in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles likewise said they were not aware of any special preparations for civil unrest.
Civil rights leaders say they are concerned about disputes over who is allowed to vote and warn there could be a loud public response if poor and minority voters feel they are being disenfranchised.
“I think there are some people that are deeply concerned that we may have something more akin to the shenanigans we experienced in 2000,” said Hilary Shelton, Washington bureau director of the NAACP.
But they do not anticipate rioting.
“I think you could see people demonstrating and raising concerns, as we do in our democratic process when something doesn’t go right, when we feel we’re being short[changed] or otherwise cheated,” Shelton said. “I think we’ve seen these things happen in very nonviolent ways. If your question is about moral outrage, I think there would be a demonstration of moral outrage if we experience anything like the shenanigans of 2000.”
Tensions have mounted between conservative-leaning groups on the lookout for voter fraud and liberal-leaning civil rights groups concerned that citizens could be unfairly turned away or intimidated.
“There is a concern that if left unchecked, some of these practices could result in thousands of votes being denied or not counted,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Henderson and allied advocates are concerned about poorly trained poll workers who mistakenly turn away voters for not having photo identification in precincts where they are not required by law; they are worried about third-party challengers who arbitrarily question the rights of Latino and African-American citizens.
Henderson said True the Vote, a voter-fraud group that grew out of the Tea Party movement, “have in effect said they’re going to target certain states and precincts with the sole purpose of intimidating voters who might otherwise cast votes unfettered.”
But Henderson said he would not “venture down that path” when asked whether civil unrest or riots could break out if there was a widespread perception that the election was stolen.
“The American people are more thoughtful than these I think somewhat specious predictions of disruption would seem to suggest,” he said. “This is not the 2008 election; an African-American is currently the president. I think people expect that when citizens cast their vote, those votes will be counted fairly.”
Even so, the Leadership Conference and other groups have requested that a European-based international group send monitors to oversee the U.S. election next month.
Civil rights groups met with representatives from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe on Tuesday to discuss the monitoring of those states that have witnessed fierce disputes over election law.
Data released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling showed a majority of Republicans and Democrats in several swing states believe the other party will engage in fraud.
In Ohio, 62 percent of Republicans think Democrats will use fraudulent tactics to ensure Obama’s reelection, while 50 percent of Democrats thought Republicans would resort to voter fraud.
In Florida, 60 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats suspected the opposing party of illicit manipulation, while in North Carolina, 69 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Democrats expected fraud.
“If it’s a close election, it’s safe to say it’s going to get ugly,” Public Policy Polling stated in a memo accompanying the surveys.
Speculation about civil unrest and possible rioting following the election is a sensitive and charged topic that has sparked accusations on both sides.
The liberal website ThinkProgress.org on Tuesday accused the conservative-leaning website Infowars.com of fanning fears of riots in minority communities if Obama loses.
“The Drudge Report, Mitt Romney’s favorite website, is stirring up another race-baiting conspiracy theory,” ThinkProgress.org wrote after the Drudge Report linked to an Infowars article that reported, “Obama supporters continue to threaten to riot if Mitt Romney wins the presidential election, raising the prospect of civil unrest if Obama fails to secure a second term.”
Conservative author Ann Coulter said in a recent interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity that liberals are themselves spreading panic about post-election riots.
“The threats to riot and the claim that abortion will somehow miraculously be illegal in places like California and New York is not going to swing the undecided voters here, Sean,” Coulter said, “though I will note that white liberals are always threatening black riots whenever they’re about to lose an election. Al GoreAl GoreWest Virginia is no longer Clinton country Overnight Energy: Obama drinks Flint water during visit Will Ferrell drops out of Reagan Alzheimer's movie MORE did it in 2000.”