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City Planning For Potential Election Night Protests, Unrest: ‘All Hands On Deck’

The city has begun drills and "workshops" to prepare for any Election Day chaos.

Demonstrators clash with police on Michigan Avenue after getting turned back from crossing the Chicago River on May 30, 2020. A Black Lives Matter demonstration drew thousands in Chicago Saturday as part of a nationwide day of protest over the recent killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.
Max Herman/Chicago Reporter
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DOWNTOWN — City agencies have begun preparations for a potentially chaotic Election Day.

With less than a month to go before the Nov. 3 election, city departments have staged drills and held “workshops” to plan for any unrest stemming from the presidential race, said Richard Guidice, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Chicago’s emergency operations center will be activated for Election Day, allowing emergency management officials to monitor the city and better coordinate response to any unrest, Guidice said.

“The city is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to planning for this event,” Guidice said at a news conference Thursday.

The influx of mail-in ballots could cause delays in tallying votes on Election Day, jeopardizing the precedent that winners declare victory the night of the election.

President Donald Trump has routinely claimed without evidence the election is rigged and has encouraged supporters to watch polls for potential —and largely nonexistent — voter fraud. Those actions could make Election Day chaotic, national observers have said.

Given the city’s recent civil unrest and looting, the Police Department will assemble tasks forces to clamp down on any problems, Supt. David Brown said.

The department will have a large presence in Downtown as well as in neighborhood business corridors, he said.

“Everything is uncertain,” Brown said. “We’re trying as best we can to anticipate any hazard that might happen.”

Election Day exercises have involved the city’s emergency response agencies, the Department of Transportation, Streets and Sanitation, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, among others, Guidice said.

Business groups and shop owners have also been engaged in the effort, he said.

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