New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said Monday, the city is taking extra precautions this election year to ensure voters feel safe at the polls. That includes precautions for COVID-19, voter intimidation, and any possible issues at the city’s 29 polling locations.  

“While we don't have any specific information about threats here in New Bedford, we don't want to take any chances,” Mitchell said. “So we will be increasing the police presence at polls as well as during the actual tabulation of the votes in the city.”

Voter turnout in New Bedford is expected to be higher than normal this election. According to Mitchell, the city has started counting early voting and mail-in ballots and officials expect to have all votes counted by the end of election night. 

“We have the right to cast a vote for the government we want and we can accept the results when they're not the ones we want when we know the process is fair,” Mitchell said. “When people start to doubt the integrity of the process, a lot of it can unravel and that's what we want to avoid.”

There is no “credible threat” to polls or elections infrastructure in Providence, the city’s Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said Monday. City police will be stationed at polling locations and moving between precincts, which Pare said is customary and has been the case in previous elections. 

“To make sure people are able to vote without being intimidated whatsoever,” Pare said. “That’s our job, and I don’t foresee any problems.” 

Pare added that officers will usually consult with the wardens running individual polling places, and may defer to them before intervening in the case that an issue arises.

“We’ll check in with them at each of our stops, just to make sure that they have the support and anything that they need at that particular site,” Pare said. “If there is an issue that needs to be escalated to a uniform officer, that’s our role.”

For weeks, city police, along with state and federal law enforcement have been watching for possible interference into local elections in Rhode Island and Providence. Additionally, Pare said the city police force is preparing for the possibility of demonstrations or gatherings on election day, and after.