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SWFL voter speaks out after she says a poll worker attempted to intimidate her

Posted at 7:48 PM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 22:13:18-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — The Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office will not be rehiring one poll worker following claims of voter intimidation.

Ellen Hemrick says it happened at the North Collier Regional Park polling site when she went to cast her early vote last Friday.

"At first, I felt very confused and very embarrassed that a person with my political education has made some large mistake," said Ellen Hemrick.

When she arrived, Hemrick says a poll worker began to question why she had requested a vote-by-mail ballot but never mailed it in.

"She was like, oh, do you have it with you, you need to surrender it, and I said yes I have it here," said Hemrick.

When Hemrick handed the ballot over to the poll worker, she says the worker informed her it was wrong.

"She said well this isn't event the right ballot, she said the ballot is a lot longer than this," said Hemrick.

That's when Hemrick told the poll worker she was a registered Democrat, to which Hemrick says the poll worker responded she could not vote then.

"She kept saying this is a Republican Primary, you should have voted back in March," said Hemrick. "I kept insisting well if this is just for Republicans, where do Democrats vote?"

Hemrick says the poll worker then called over another worker.

"She said to him 'she's a registered democrat' and she said it in this big stage whisper voice, and then I immediately knew that I hadn't made some kind of mistake," said Hemrick.

After some back-and-forth, Hemrick was able to cast her vote, but she did submit a complaint to the Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office.

"As I realized I wasn't making a mistake and they were treating me very poorly, I was very angry," said Hemrick.

The Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office says it immediately investigated the issue by speaking with both the election worker directly and the clerk in charge of the site.

"We were able to narrow down that the issue was based on a miscommunication that escalated," said Trish Robertson, Public Relations Officer for Collier County Supervisor of Elections.

Roberston says the poll worker will not be rehired for future elections.

"Unfortunately, we just can't have that kind of thing happen when people are trying to vote," said Robertson.

As for Hemrick, she encourages anyone that experiences something like this to speak out.

"If it can happen to me, a very politically active person who votes in every tiny local election and knows her rights, it can happen to anybody," said Hemrick.