MORE: Loudoun deputies investigating alleged threats against GOP office in Sterling
The information came to law enforcement one day after a Republican Party headquarters in Orange County, N.C. was firebombed. There, graffiti warning its members to flee town was painted on the walls of a neighboring building, GOP and police officials said, and a window at the headquarters was broken and a swastika was spray-painted nearby alongside the words “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.”
Kraig Troxell, spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, said workers at the Sterling GOP office learned of the threat after someone overheard a conversation in the office's parking lot. Given the recent events in North Carolina, this person took what they heard to be a threat against the office.
“It's unclear being it's third-party information as to exactly what was said,” Troxell said. “The witness was unknown to those in the office … We're working to identify [the witness] as well as anyone who was in the parking lot at the time of this conversation.”
Loudoun County deputies, he said, have beefed up their presence in areas where campaign offices are located and have reached out to campaign workers and volunteers to make them aware of the alleged threat.
Tensions between supporters of presidential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have intensified in the last few weeks. Recently, Trump has made remarks during rallies that voters should “go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100-percent fine.”
The presidential nominee is also putting out claims that the general election is rigged by the Democratic Party in partnership with “the media.”
The Loudoun County Republican Committee on Oct. 17 emailed supporters, saying, “As we come down the home stretch for the upcoming election, we need to be prepared to observe the polls on Election Day, Nov. 8th, to ensure the electoral process is fair and lawful.”
Troxell said deputies have not received any specific threats at this point as to incidents at polling locations on Election Day.
“With any election we remain vigilant,” he said. “... I'm sure there's discussions that are going on as to what threats, if any, could happen.”
Leesburg Police spokesman Lt. Jeff Dube said there will be dedicated resources as there is on any election day to monitor the various precincts on Nov. 8.
“The Leesburg Police Department is aware of the current political climate and will respond to and document all calls for service regarding complaints of this nature,” Dube said.
Purcellville Police Lt. Joe Schroeck said officers with his department will be on guard on Election Day as well.
Still, a police presence on Election Day can be a double-edged sword.
“People see our presence and they sometimes take that like we're endorsing one candidate over the other,” he said. “We try and stay away because people look at you like you're endorsing candidate x or y.”
Schroeck said Purcellville officers play a bigger role in keeping the peace during local, town council elections.
Other than reports of a few vandalized campaign signs, which, according to Schroeck is typical of any election year, Purcellville has remained quiet on the road leading to Nov. 8.
“All political campaigns can be heated but we haven't noticed anything in town. Most of the controversy comes at a local level,” he said.
On Oct. 18, a campaign sign for LuAnn Bennett, Democratic candidate for the congressional 10th District, was vandalized on West Church Road in Sterling with the letters “CWB SS.”
CWB, according to the Anti-Defamation League, stands for “Crazy White Boys,” a term generically used by white supremacists. SS stands for Schutzstaffel, the paramilitary arm of Hitler's Germany. Bennett campaign officials said they reported the incident to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office.
Like any other election year
Loudoun County Registrar Judy Brown said the county's Board of Elections is carrying on this year as it would during any other presidential election year.
The county's Emergency Management Office will be activated as it always is on election days, Brown said, and precinct workers will constantly monitor as voters come in and out of buildings.
Brown said county election officials are aware of the political rhetoric from Trump's campaign that this year's election is rigged, but the claims haven't prevented them from securing voter technology.
There's no need for a police presence, she said, because precinct workers are trained on what to do in case of an emergency.
“We're paying attention to what's going. We're going to do anything we can to make sure our elections are fair, but we won't have sheriff's deputies standing around because it's intimidating,” Brown said.
Brown said her office is predicting a 75 percent to 80 percent voter turnout this year. Mailed absentee ballots, she said, are already 10 percent higher than they were four years ago.
“This is an election where an incumbent is not running, so you usually get a bigger turnout,” she said.
To combat voter fraud, Brown said the county's voting equipment is never connected to the internet. The memory stick that will hold election results is thoroughly tested while political party leaders watch, as do members of the Electoral Board.
The stick is then placed in a secure warehouse and locked inside a cage until the Sunday before Election Day. No one single person is allowed in the room by themselves, Brown said.
“We're confident that our voter equipment has not been tampered with and it's set and ready for the election,” she said.
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