LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As a record number of voters are casting their ballots early this year, local and federal officials say their top priorities are to ensure the safety of citizens and the security of the election.
The announcement, which officials stress is being done only out of an abundance of caution, comes after top federal intelligence officials announced last week that Iran and Russia have taken actions to try to compromise the U.S. election and have obtained some voter registration data.
Voters at the South Pasadena Community Center on Monday said they were motivated by fear above all else to vote early, following reports of unofficial ballots boxes and suspected arson to a ballot box.
“I’ve just heard too many rumors about fraud and how things could go bad,” said voter Dan Hughley.
It’s not just voters who are feeling the pressure of election time; officials say security concerns remain top of mind.
“It’s not a heightened concern on our end, it is certainly a heightened conversation – and we want to make sure that’s all it remains,” said Mack Jenkins, the Assistant U.S. Attorney, Chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.
Jenkins said federal prosecutors are enhancing what they typically do for federal elections, and will open a larger than ever regional command center — along with the FBI and local law enforcement — to monitor voter safety.
“In response to the heightened conversation, we did more training more resources, more physical bodies and more planning for the worst-case scenarios,” Jenkins said. ‘There’s maybe more worst-case scenarios now, but not any of them do we feel have reached the level of credible threats at this point.”
Los Angeles County and Orange County officials also previously said they would be increasing patrols as November 3 nears.
Residents are asked to keep an eye out for election crimes, which can fall into the categories of hacking by foreign or domestic groups, interference or intimidation at the polls, and fraud that may include people trying to buy ballots or indelible residents trying to vote.
“A lot of it is frankly educating the public, that is what they should be on the lookout for but also calming the public to a certain degree to let them know we are prepared,” Jenkins said.
Any calls about election crimes will go directly to the command center team, with the assistance of U.S. attorneys.
Still, officials are cautioning voters to take a similar approach to their actions — to be ready, but not fearful.
“At this point again we’re not concerned, we’re just prepared,” Jenkins said.