An official Republican poll watcher was charged with assault on Friday after shoving an election judge who wouldn’t let him into an early voting center in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Gary Pendleton, a 73-year-old Republican who previously served as a Wake County commissioner and member of the State House of Representatives, tells CNN he intentionally went to the Northern Regional Center early voting location about an hour before the polls opened to observe the set-up.
He told CNN he went to the polling place “to watch for fraud potential.”
Pendleton said he had previously been allowed into other voting locations before the polls officially opened. But when he arrived on Friday, election officials would not allow him inside before the polls opened. He said he tried to get in anyway, but the location’s chief election judge “got in his face” to stop him. A police report filed after the incident, and obtained by CNN, said the victim was 71 years old.
Wake County Elections Director Gary Sims said the election judge didn’t do anything wrong by making Pendleton wait until the polls opened to come inside. The election judge is a Democratic appointee.
“Assaulting one of our officials is wrong. The bottom line is these officials, I consider them part of my family. I feel like one of my family members was assaulted,” Sims said. “We have bipartisan teams out there. There is not a grand conspiracy. They are just out there doing their job. These are members of the community giving up their time to make sure we have fair and free elections.”
Pendleton said he was cited for class three misdemeanor assault.
“We both had on masks, but I wasn’t about to let him sit three feet from my face, so I pushed him back to get him out of my face,” Pendleton said, blaming the scuffle on partisan tensions. “If I had it to do all over again, I would’ve just turned around and walked out the door. But I was really bent out of shape.”
President Trump has repeatedly urged Republicans to “watch” for fraud at the polls, including as trained poll watchers and as ordinary citizens trying to ferret out “corruption.” He has spent months spreading lies about widespread voter fraud, which does not exist in US elections.
Pendleton was an official poll observer who was appointed and trained by the local Republican Party and authorized to be at the voting location.