Officers will be available, but not at polls

Uniformed law enforcement officers won’t be stationed at polls during the early election or on Nov. 3, but they will be on standby if needed.

A memo from the state Board of Elections to local boards caused a furor earlier this week when it was reported that uniformed officers were prohibited from polling places. Sheriff Jody Greene and Elections Supervisor Carla Strickland both said that while officers will not be inside or at the polls, they will be available if needed.

“We have a good relationship with our LEOs, and we know if we need them we can call them,” Strickland said.

The memorandum from the state board said that some voters might find the presence of law enforcement “intimidating.” Patrick Gannon of the state board said the memo does not in any way prevent uniformed officers from voting or responding to calls for assistance.

“Our duty at the State Board of Elections is to ensure that all voters may cast a ballot comfortably and free from any form of intimidation,” Gannon said in an email. “We know from complaints in previous elections that some voters feel intimidated by uniformed police presence at polling places.”

Critics have claimed that the Elections Board – which lost two Republican members last week – was following Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper’s lead in cooling toward law enforcement. Cooper marched with anti-police protestors in Raleigh earlier this year.

While not naming previous governors, Gannon explained that prohibiting LEOs from being stationed at polls has been endorsed by both political parties in the past.

“The guidance issued by the State Board is in line with guidance from former executive directors under different administrations,” he wrote. “The State Board’s guidance for numerous years has been that county boards shall not have law enforcement monitoring at voting sites.”

Strickland said that state law requires chief poll workers to call the board of elections or law enforcement if intimidation is reported. Officers in uniform can also escort pollworkers to their vehicles after polls close, and can cast their ballots while in uniform.

If intimidation by campaign workers, supporters or other individuals is reported – or if poll workers are threatened —  Strickland said officers will be called to assist.

Greene said that additional deputies will be on patrol in the area around polling places during early voting and on Election Day, but they will not be posted at the polls.

“We are going to be close by so we can quickly respond if we are needed,” he said. “The right to vote is one of the most important things we have as citizens. We are going to protect the right of every citizen to cast a vote.”

“There is a lot of interest in this year’s election,” Strickland said. “We are not going to allow anything to get in the way of those who are trying to cast a ballot.”

  • In addition to electronic calls, nighthunting, dogs and bait, hunters have another tool to use in hoghunting– technology. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has unveiled a new online reporting tool for people to report any sightings of feral swine or damage to the agency. Feral swine, also called wild boar and feral hogs, are an invasive species that cause significant damage to plant communities and wildlife habitat, prey on native wildlife, compete with native species for limited food and clean water resources and potentially spread diseases that pose substantial risk to livestock, wildlife, humans and pets. Commission biologists, along with other members of the N.C. Feral Swine Task Force, are seeking information from the public to better understand the distribution and abundance of feral swine across the state, and to estimate type and extent of damages they are causing, including damage to agricultural crops, timber, wildlife habitats, landscaping and others. Reported sightings will help members of the task force determine priority areas where they can focus management efforts. Education and outreach events, technical assistance staff, loaner traps, and other control measures will be focused in areas of greatest need. “Reports we receive from the public will be extremely important for developing a baseline of information, which we will then use to track how feral swine move across the landscape,” said Falyn Owens, the Commission’s extension biologist. “Changes in the reports we receive over time will also provide a measure of effectiveness of feral swine control efforts across the state.” Feral swine are highly adaptable animals that can live in urban, suburban and rural areas from the mountains to the sea. In North Carolina, they are typically found in isolated pockets, and have been reported in most counties of the state. Commission biologists hope that citizen reports will help them better assess the extent that feral swine are impacting the states natural resources. In Columbus county, hogs have displaced deer in many areas around the Waccamaw River. Feral swine are also reportedly moving up the river toward the sensitive ecosystems around Lake Waccamaw State Park. They root cemeteries in Nakina, Old Dock and Crusoe, and destroy crops around Tabor and Clarendon. Rodney Register has become known as the “Hawg Eradicator” for his efforts to trap pigs across the county over the past two years. He expects to top the 300 mark this fall. Opportunistic feeders and omnivorous, feral swine will eat almost anything, include a wide range of vegetative matter. While foraging, feral swine root into and turn up the soil, causing extensive damage to landscaping, stream banks, lawns, and agricultural fields. On agricultural and developed lands, they cause an estimated $1.5 billion per year in damages to crops across the United States. While feral swine eat a wide range of vegetation, they also eat snakes, turtles, lizards, the eggs and young of ground nesting birds like quail and turkey, and white-tailed deer fawns. Feral swine have the potential to carry at least 30 diseases and nearly 40 different parasites that can affect humans, pets, livestock and other wildlife. Diseases like brucellosis, pseudorabies, foot and mouth disease, and African swine fever are just some of the concerns when feral swine and people or livestock interact. “Simply put, feral swine are invasive and undesirable as free-ranging animals on North Carolina’s landscape,” Owens said. “Unfortunately, illegal releases continue to supplement the growing population, making control of these destructive animals challenging. “In order to direct resources that will allow landowners and managers to better control feral swine populations and reduce the damages they cause to North Carolina citizens, the natural environment and our native wildlife, we need the public to report sightings to us.” The N.C. Feral Swine Task Force comprises state and federal agencies that are working collaboratively to learn more about and manage the impacts of feral swine in the state. In addition to the Commission, current members include USDA-Wildlife Services, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Natural Resource Conservation Service, NCSU Cooperative Extension Service, USDA-Veterinary Services, N.C. Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information on feral swine in North Carolina, visit the Commission’s feral swine web page.
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About Jefferson Weaver 264 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the managing editor of columbuscountynews.com and news director for WTXY radio. He can be reached at 910.632.4965, or by email at jeffersonweaver@columbuscountynews.com.

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