Here’s where the National Guard is activated on Election Day
More than 3,600 National Guard service members have been activated across the country ahead of possible civil unrest following Election Day.
At least 16 states have Guard troops at the ready for a range of missions, from cybersecurity support to assisting at polling locations out of uniform. They are also on standby in case of protests on election night or later this week.
The National Guard is involved with election-related activities since federal law prohibits active-duty military from enforcing order domestically.
Guard service members have been used frequently throughout the year to help with the coronavirus pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes and to help quell summer protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Now, with concerns over possible violence after the polls close, troops have been on standby since earlier this month, and governors have activated more troops in the past week.
Here’s where the Guard is positioned and what role they might play.
Alabama and Arizona
The National Guard in mid-September put 600 military police units on standby, 300 each in Alabama and Arizona, “ready to deploy within 24 hours if requested by a governor in another state,” a National Guard Bureau spokesman said.
The forces in Alabama would respond in the eastern half of the country, while those in Arizona would respond in the west.
Additionally, the Guard has bought more than $200,000 in new protective equipment and increased troop training on proper procedures for dealing with protests.
“Our goal is to protect the people and property in the communities where we live and serve. This task force will allow us to do so with more speed and efficiency,” National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson said in a statement at the time.
Up to 10 Colorado National Guard service members will “assist with election cybersecurity defense efforts during the 2020 Presidential election,” according to an executive order from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D).
The members, who will come from the Colorado National Guard Defensive Cyber Operations Element, will work to protect the state’s online voter registration system from hackers from Oct. 19 through Nov. 4.
Gov. John Carney (D) on Oct. 15 signed an executive order to activate the Delaware National Guard’s 166th Cyberspace Operations Squadron to help in election cybersecurity.
Roughly 20 Air National Guard troops will link up with the state’s Department of Technology and Information to help in the effort.
“Throughout our country’s history, Americans have sacrificed to secure voting rights for our fellow citizens. We have an obligation to take additional steps to protect that right from any cyber threats. This Executive Order is a proactive measure to do just that,” Carney said in the order.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday ordered an unspecified number of Florida National Guard members activated in several locations.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the Florida National Guard is activating a number of Soldiers who will be pre-positioned in several locations across the state, standing by to assist local law enforcement and their communities as needed,” Florida National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Caitlin Brown said in a statement.
She did not give additional details, citing “operational security concerns.”
An undisclosed number of Illinois National Guard members were placed in Chicago in a “state of readiness,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said on Monday.
Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) later tweeted there has been no decision on deploying the troops in the city.
“Similar to past emergency preparedness plans, the State has stationed personnel at McCormick Place to be ready to respond if needed, however, there are currently no plans for them to be deployed,” according to the OEMC.
About 280 Kentucky National Guardsmen will help local officials at the polls in 38 counties.
The service members, who will be out of uniform, will aid in “setting up and cleaning polling locations and assisting with traffic, parking, and crowd control,” according to a statement from the Kentucky National Guard.
Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on Monday ordered up to 1,000 Guardsmen to be on standby in case of unrest.
The troops would provide assistance to state and local authorities “for the preservation of life and property, preservation of order, and to afford protections to persons,” according to the executive order.
State officials have stressed that troops are on standby to support local communities, even though there is no indication of any public safety risk.
Roughly 240 New Jersey Guardsmen will wear civilian clothes to help out at polling locations in 18 counties due to shortages of poll workers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Guard members … will primarily assist in processing vote-by-mail ballots, which will support the state in ensuring an efficient, fair and safe election process,” spokesperson Lt. Col. Barbara Brown told NJ.com.
Gov. Kate Brown (D) on Monday declared a state of emergency for the Portland area and put an undisclosed number of Guardsmen on standby for a 48-hour period, citing concern over possible election-related violence.
Brown, who set up a “unified command” of local law enforcement supported by the Oregon National Guard, said service members trained in crowd control will be on standby.
The unified command will end on Wednesday evening.
Hundreds of Pennsylvania National Guard service members deployed to Philadelphia over the weekend after Mayor Jim Kenney’s (D) office requested help with “the current situation and election preparation.”
In addition, about 15 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s cyber defense team will be used to help with election cybersecurity.
About 30 cybersecurity specialists in the Tennessee National Guard will help with network security.
In addition, the Guard has offered 13 of its readiness centers as polling sites, with 26 members out of uniform to help election officials.
The Texas Army National Guard said early last week it would send up to 1,000 troops to five cities in the state to support local authorities in the case of “civil disturbance.”
Troops could be dispatched to Austin, Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio and resemble the protections offered to cities following Floyd’s death earlier this year.
Officials plan to use the troops to guard buildings and said there have been no requests or plans to provide any support at any polling locations.
At least 300 Washington National Guard soldiers have been trained to handle potential unrest after Election Day, The Seattle Times reported.
The troops were placed on alert along with hundreds of other Guardsmen that have already assisted police in Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma during protests in June.
Another nine Washington National Guardsmen are focused on the state’s election operations, helping protect against any cybersecurity attacks.
Up to 400 citizen soldiers and airmen will help out at the polls as workers are in short supply due to the pandemic.
The troops, who are not in uniform, will help “to ensure that election day goes smoothly and that voters and election officials alike have the assistance they need,” Gov. Tony Evers (D) said in a press release last week.
One Wyoming National Guard soldier has been activated to help with election cybersecurity, Military Times reported.
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