‘No plans’ to provide support at polling locations, Texas Army National Guard says

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are new questions about the role Texas Army National Guard troops will play on Election Day, after reports 1,000 troops could be deployed to major Texas cities.

On Monday afternoon, the San Antonio Express News reported the Texas Military Department said it could send troops to Austin and other major Texas cities as soon as this weekend, ahead of possible “post-election disturbances.”

Military officials told KXAN on Monday night they had no plans to provide support at polling locations across the state.

“The Texas Military Department was activated to provide additional support to the Department of Public Safety in the summer of 2020,” said Major General Tracy R. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas in a statement. “Texas Service Members continue to support DPS in this capacity, guarding historical landmarks such as the Alamo and the State Capitol. To be clear, there has been no request nor any plan to provide any type of support at any polling location in Texas.”

Military police soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade support local law enforcement during a protest in Austin on May 31, 2020. On May 30, 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott activated parts of the Texas National Guard to help law enforcement in the state in response to civil unrest. The Texas National Guard will be used to support local law enforcement and protect critical infrastructure necessary to the well-being of local communities. (U.S. Army photo by Charles E. Spirtos)

The initial reports sparked concerns about voter intimidation at the polls, with Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar releasing a statement, saying in part, “Texas voters will not be intimidated by Gov. Greg Abbott’s fear-mongering during this election.”

He went on to say, “There is a disgraceful history of state officials using law enforcement to suppress Black and Brown voters, and we won’t be deterred from voting in record numbers. Voting in Texas, whether by mail, early in-person, or on Election Day, is safe, secure, and convenient, and our local leaders will ensure that every vote is counted.” 

Mayor Steve Adler agreed with the latter statement, encouraging voters to feel confident at the polls, but said he hasn’t been made aware of any plans for additional state support or troops for Election Day.

“We haven’t had any indication of anything special or out of the ordinary, either on Election Day or after Election Day,” he said.

He said they appreciate state support when it’s needed, but so far, he doesn’t see any reason for major changes on Nov. 3.

Brian Lynch is the Executive Director of Safety and Security at RANE, a risk assessment company. He said it wouldn’t be surprising for governments to call in reinforcements in order to be “proactive” in their election plans, considering the outcome of some Texas protests over police brutality from the summer.

“One could argue this is ‘good planning’ from the perspective of being prepared and ensuring that the resources are available and are positioned where they need to be based on past actions,” Lynch said. “They are acting on what has happened in the past, relative to social unrest in the last six months.”

He went on, “Then add to that the tension around the election.”

Lynch also noted military officials may have even received intelligence or tips that protests are planned or could escalate.

“2020 is not standard procedure. There’s a lot of tension, and there are a lot of different crisis events occurring at the same time,” he said.

Lynch said at RANE, they tell their clients to always have a plan in place to mitigate risk, even when the likelihood for crisis is low.

Adler said they will “certainly” be prepared for anything that happens, but so far, he isn’t concerned.

“We’re not hearing any real indications to anticipate any disruptions or intimidation,” Adler said. “I urge everybody to get out and vote. Don’t be scared.”

In some other states, National Guard troops have been utilized at polling places, working out of uniform and in plain clothes to hand out ballots or help set up tables. This has been the case in states like Wisconsin and Kentucky, where there has been a reported lack of poll-workers due to the coronavirus.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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