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ICE, Dispelling Rumors, Says It Won’t Patrol Polling Places

False claims that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is interfering at polling locations have cropped up intermittently over the past two years.

Voters in Milwaukee in 2008. (Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will not patrol polling locations on Election Day, an ICE spokeswoman said in response to social media rumors of potential voter intimidation from the federal law enforcement agency.

False claims that ICE is interfering at polling locations have cropped up intermittently over the past two years. In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, for example, an image spread on Twitter appearing to show an immigration officer arresting someone in line to vote. The image was a hoax.

Concerns re-emerged last week after a wallet-sized flyer bearing the Department of Homeland Security seal, found on a sidewalk in Milwaukee, claimed that ICE officials would patrol polling stations on Election Day. Nicole Alberico, a spokeswoman for ICE, described the flyers as fake.

“Rumors that ICE plans to engage in patrols or enforcement operations at polling locations are false,” Alberico wrote in a statement. “Any flyers or advertisements claiming otherwise are incorrect and not sanctioned by ICE.”

The flyer included a phone number “to report illegal aliens” that redirected to the DHS’ investigations tip line. It also included threatening language, claiming that if voters did not have proper documentation they might “risk immediate detainment.”

Mary Oglesby posted on Facebook about finding the flyer during a visit to Milwaukee. She immediately became suspicious of the handout and contacted the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office. “You could tell it wasn’t real because the graphics were really bad,” Oglesby said in an interview with ProPublica.

The Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office notified local law enforcement and DHS after receiving the tip, according to a Joshua Mathy, a spokesperson for the office. He added that no other flyers have been reported.

Milwaukee’s election director, Neil Albrecht, said that he was aware of the flyer and that none of his poll workers had reported seeing anything similar at their polling locations.

Additional reporting by Stefanie Le, IDWire

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ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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