Federal and state law enforcement officials have begun expanded preparations for the possibility of widespread unrest at the polls on Election Day, a response to extraordinarily high tensions among voters and anxieties about safety stoked in part by President Donald Trump.
FBI and local officials in several states have been conducting drills, running through worse-case scenarios, setting up command centers to improve coordination on reports of violence and voter intimidation, and issuing public warnings that any crime that threatens the sanctity of a Nov. 3 vote will not be tolerated.
The efforts are broader and more public-facing than in past years as fears grow over the potential for violent clashes in cities across the United States. Law enforcement officials say they are not responding to any specific threats or information but are preparing for a host of different scenarios that could play out.
Tensions are especially high given the increased political polarization and months of mass demonstrations against racial injustice that have seen violence by the left and right. Gun sales are way up. Six men were arrested after federal officials said they plotted to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich., at her vacation home. Experts are concerned that right-wing extremists will be emboldened by Trump's recent refusal to clearly denounce the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist group, and instead tell them to “stand back and stand by.”
With files from the Associated Press