By Marlee Ginter

NEVADA COUNTY (CBS13) — We’ve already seen rallies interrupt voting sites and campaign signs set on fire in Northern California. It makes voter intimidation a very real concern this election season and is prompting county election offices to step up training in ways they’ve never done before.

Robert Bell knows what voter intimidation is now after having a campaign sign soaked in lighter fluid and set on fire in his front yard.

“I’ve been doing this too long. I’ve experienced too much to let this crap bother me. They want to intimidate me, it’s gonna come back at them and they’re not gonna like it,” said Bell.

Emotions are high this election year and when you couple that with a pandemic, election officials are making sure poll workers are prepared.

“We are letting our election officials know that law enforcement is being informed of the locations of all of the vote centers so that they’ll be able to get there and take care of things if necessary,” said Sacramento County Elections Assistant Michael Harrison.

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Natalie Adona, the Assistant Registrar of Voters in Nevada County, says recent incidents including a protest turning violent, have raised their awareness as to what could happen on election day.

Election officials are now stepping up de-escalation training.  They’re expanding the role of their Field Election Deputies, or FEDS, to keep voting peaceful on election day.

“A couple of our FEDS are attorneys. Our non-attorney FEDS have a lot of experience with elections. They’ve worked in past elections and they know what the processes are,” said Adona.

Already a victim of voter intimidation, Bell just wants to cast his votes in peace.

“You earned that right by being an American. You have a right to vote. And nobody has a right to try to stop you from voting,” said Bell.

FEDS, or rovers, are often used on election day to make sure polling places have the supplies they need, but their roles have expanded this year.

Sacramento County also has a code phrase for poll workers to alert law enforcement if a situation escalates.

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