Trump supporters gather outside Fairfax County Government Center, disrupt early voting


Early voters wait in line outside of the Fairfax County Government Center. (MADISON DIETRICH)

Claire Moeser, Sports Editor

Supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in front of the early voting line at the Fairfax County Government Center on Sept. 19. The gathering raised concerns of potential voter intimidation.

The gathering occurred on the second day of early voting, just two weeks after President Trump held a political rally in North Carolina, during which he encouraged his supporters to become poll watchers and watch voters cast their ballots.

The purpose of a poll watcher is to observe the voting process and ensure the election is fair. Regulations on poll watching vary from state to state. The regulations prevent just anybody from showing up at the polls and becoming a poll watcher. Depending on the state, candidates, political parties and political action committees appoint poll watchers.

“Citizens coming into and leaving the building did have to go by them,” Gary Scott, the general registrar of Fairfax County, said in a statement to The New York Times. “Those voters who were in line outside of the building were moved inside and we continued operations. Some voters, and elections staff, did feel intimidated by the crowd and we did provide escorts past the group.”

Election officials reported the group gathered about 100 feet away from the Government Center. Virginia law states that it is illegal to loiter or congregate with campaign material within 40 feet of any polling place. There are additional laws that protect against intimidation outside the 40 feet. 

“It is a pattern that our President and the GOP have said that he wants his supporters to do this,” Adam Rizzoli (’21) said. “Encouraging his supporters to self appoint themselves as poll watchers is not only against the law but a threat to our democracy.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an advisory opinion, outlining state and federal laws prohibiting voter intimidation following the incident.

“These types of protection have an important history in our law,” Herring said in the advisory opinion. “They have helped vindicate racial equality in voting, ensure the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws, and invoke the basic respect that is due every voter at the polls. The legitimacy of our government—and its success in fulfilling the promises of our Constitution—rely on the notion of uncoerced choice. Virginia and federal law protect the fundamental right to vote freely.”

State leaders and election officials across the country are concerned about potential voter intimidation at polling locations in the upcoming election. President Trump and other members of the GOP are encouraging Republicans to become poll watchers.

“Voter intimidation is a serious issue and something that can not be ignored,” Rizzoli said.