A federal judge barred poll workers at an election site in Beaumont, Texas, from engaging in certain conduct that Black voters said was intimidating.
US District Judge Michael J. Truncale, of the Eastern District of Texas, issued the temporary restraining order Monday in a case brought by Beaumont’s chapter of the NAACP, which alleged that White poll workers spoke aggressively to Black voters, hovered too close behind Black voters while the voters operated voting machines, and declined to help Black voters cast their ballots.
Truncale prohibited poll workers in Jefferson County from engaging in the specific behaviors outlined in the NAACP complaint. However, he rejected the NAACP’s request that he remove the official who is presiding as the election judge at the voting site where the conduct allegedly occurred.
The lawsuit put forward declarations from several poll workers, voters and a local pastor who had been at the election site, a community center where a vast majority of voters are Black. They said they witnessed White poll workers aggressively demand that Black voters loudly recite their addresses, even after those voters’ identities had been confirmed, while making no such demands of White voters.
They also alleged that the White poll watchers and workers were following Black voters to the voting machines and standing close enough behind the votes that they could watch them mark their ballots. Additionally they said that the White poll workers refused to help Black voters insert their ballots into a ballot scanning machine, while giving that assistance to White voters.
“I witnessed White poll watchers standing so close to voters at the polling booth that they could watch the voters marking their ballots,” a poll worker said in a declaration. “The poll watcher was not even two feet away from the voter. This happened twice over the course of the afternoon. On each occasion, the voter was Black and appeared intimidated by the behavior of the poll watchers. I had to ask the poll watcher to step back and stop looking at the voter’s ballot as it was being completed.”
Airon Reynolds, a pastor of a local church who is Black, attested that he had tried to talk the Mary Beth Bowling, the election judge, and county clerk Laurie Leister last week about the alleged behavior. He said Bowling refused his request that she change her behavior and that Leister would also not direct Bowling to stop the conduct.
Attorneys for the county officials did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.