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Amid worries about civil unrest and violence following the presidential election and possible shortages of poll workers on Nov. 3 itself, more state leaders are considering deployment of the National Guard.

Although the U.S. military is generally left out of the election process, polling locations attempting to manage impossibly long voting lines may not be in a position to turn away help from the Guard, whose members would fill in as plainclothes poll workers or help to monitor cybersecurity.


In key battleground states such as the Rust Belt’s Wisconsin and the Sun Belt’s Arizona, governors have already announced they could or would activate the National Guard to help with security.

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said Thursday that he would deploy around 400 members to compensate for poll worker shortages.

Members of the Minnesota National Guard stand at the intersection of South 7th Street and Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, as community members and business owners clean up damage from looters.  (Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via AP)

“The Wisconsin National Guard has played a critical role in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and this mission is no different,” Evers said. “As Wisconsin faces an urgent crisis with more than 200,000 positive cases of COVID-19 across the state, the help of the Guard will be needed to ensure that Election Day goes smoothly and that voters and election officials alike have the assistance they need.”

That same day, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey told ABC 15 he would not “hesitate” to send out the Guard should there be civil unrest.

Following the police killing of a 27-year-old Black man, Walter Wallace Jr., on Friday, Philadelphia Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney requested that the Pennsylvania National Guard help with the “current situation and election preparation.”

The Guard in New Jersey is assisting election officials with balloting, Delaware and Washington state Guard personnel will provide election-related tech aid, and Tennessee’s Guard is opening polling stations for rural communities, according to The Associated Press

In addition, should any other state governors request them, the National Guard has designated military police units — with hundreds of troops —  in both Alabama and Arizona that are ready to respond within 24 hours. 

Conversely, many states say they have no plans to activate their Guard for the election in response to concerns about voter intimidation

Nebraska’s adjutant general Maj. Gen. Daryl L. Bohac told reporters that governors are developing contingency plans — though they could evolve on the evening of the election.

The National Guard can only be federalized under limited circumstances, though once federalized, the president can command personnel without a governor’s permission.

In addition, senior military leaders have said that they believe there is no role for active-duty or federalized National Guard in an election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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