Over the weekend, Donald Trump supporters showed up at early voting sites in West Palm Beach. Videos show them at the West Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections office shouting with bullhorns at voters and breaching the 100-foot electioneering line mandated by Florida law. It got so bad that the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office dispatched uniformed officers to monitor their behavior until the polls close on election day.
"Some really scary characters are coming out and circling the parking lot with bullhorns in their face and screaming with every tactic they can think of to keep people from voting," says West Palm Beach commissioner Paula Ryan, who filmed the events. "I was stunned and shocked."
Last Wednesday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which fields complaints about elections, received a call about Trump supporters breaking the 100-foot electioneering line and using bullhorns to intimidate voters. The Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Office did not return a call seeking comment from New Times but told ProPublica that once deputies were dispatched, there were no further problems, just "typical campaigning."
But Paula Ryan, who was at the early voting site over the weekend supporting Hillary Clinton, said it wasn't enough. In addition to the bullhorns and breaching the electioneering line, Trump supporters "verbally attacked" Clinton supporters, struck a pregnant woman filming on her phone, shouted into car windows harassing those voting for Clinton, and circled the parking lot with trucks with huge signs of Donald Trump and aborted fetuses, Ryan reports.
"They were using tactics meant to intimidate voters," she says. "The more I taped, the more aggressive they became."
At last month's debate, Donald Trump announced that the election system was rigged and that he might not accept the results of the election if he did not win. Trump's grassroots campaign, Citizens for Trump, soon announced that it would deploy 1,300 volunteers to 600 precincts to conduct their own exit poll in nine cities in controversial swing states — including Florida.
According to Florida law, no person or group can solicit voters within 100 feet of a polling site. Besides enforcing those restrictions, law enforcement can do little to stop intimidating behavior. Paula Ryan reports that PBSO officers did ensure that Trump supporters stayed out of the streets and did not block the flow of traffic on sidewalks.
"As a commissioner, it has made me aware of how important it is that we look at some ordinances," Ryan says. "We have to enact some things that don't impact the First Amendment rights and that also create [a] safe, orderly area for all to enjoy."