Voter Intimidation

This memorandum is intended to provide clarification regarding laws, practices, and procedures related to voter intimidation at polling locations, challenges to voters at polling locations or during the vote by mail/provisional ballot processing period and electioneering. This memorandum also provides recommendations related to reporting voter intimidation incidents to our office. While many of the activities referenced below may constitute violations of federal law, this memorandum focuses on state law. 

Election observers are welcome to observe in-person voting and other activities and their presence is authorized by law. Those who avail themselves of observation activities must, however, not engage in any prohibited activity. 

Election Activities that May be Vulnerable to Intimidation 

Voting: Voter intimidation is illegal and is a serious offense. It is a felony if any person “makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence, or tactic of coercion or intimidation” to compel any other person to vote or refrain from voting, refrain from voting for any particular person or measure at any election; or because any person voted or refrained from voting at any election or voted or refrained from voting for any particular person or measure. It is also a felony if anyone hires or arranges for any other person to do any of the above. (Elec. Code, § 18540.)

While such acts of voter intimidation may happen in and around a polling location (immediate vicinity), they may occur anywhere. Such acts may include, for example: 

  • Blocking access to voting locations 
  • Threatening criminal action against voters 
  • Presenting false information about voter eligibility requirements, including criminal consequences for voting (e.g., credit card debt, arrest warrant checks, etc.) 
  • Harassing or threatening behavior, including aggressive questioning of voters based on a person’s race, gender identity, or aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, criminal record, or other qualifications to vote 
  • Challenging voters’ right to vote 
  • Presenting false information to voters about the voting process and requirements, including the ability to speak English, or the need to present certain types of photo identification 
  • Assault, battery, threats of violence, brandishing of weapons 

Click here for more information on voter intimidation