Wake Forest, N.C. (WorkersCompensation.com) – A former Republican state legislator is accused of assaulting an election worker earlier this month.
Gary Sims, the director of the Wake County Board of Elections, told the board about the incident in an email last Friday, according to the Charlotte News & Observer.
“This morning at National Regional Center (early voting) location, a Republican observer assaulted one of our officials,” Sims wrote, the newspaper said. “Police have cited him with assault but did not take him into custody. He has departed and warned not to return to voting locations as an observer.”
In the email, Sims identified the observer as Gary Pendleton, an official Republican poll observer. Pendleton previously served on the N.C. General Assembly from 2015 to 2017, and is a former Wake County Commissioner.
Sims said Pendleton pushed the poll worker when they would not allow Pendleton into the polling location before it opened to the public.
According to police reports, Pendleton arrived around 7 a.m. to observe the polls, but was turned away by a security guard. When Pendleton asked for a supervisor to let him in, the supervisor told him he would have to wait outside. Pendleton tried again 20 minutes later when elections officials again refused him entry.
“He was on one side, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll just go around you,’” Pendleton told the Associated Press. “So, I went around, he jumped over in front of me about 3 feet (away) mouth to mouth. I pushed him back because I don’t want to get COVID-19.”
Pendleton was a poll observer at Roberts Community Center in Raleigh on Thursday where, he said, he was allowed to enter early to see what poll workers were doing. When he was not allowed to enter early in Wake Forest, he asked poll workers what they were trying to hide.
“Of course, that’s why we are there,” he told the paper. “We are looking for fraudulent activity that might be occurring in polls around Wake County.”
Sims condemned the former legislator’s actions.
“I don’t care if it’s voting or anything,” Sims told the paper. “If you are upset you need to step back. Violence is never acceptable. These election officials are like family to me so I kind of feel like a member of my family was assaulted. It’s not acceptable.”
Sims said poll workers should never face violence at the polls.
“Nobody comes to work expecting to be assaulted,” Sims said.
Law enforcement came to the location of the incident and charged Pendleton with a class 3 misdemeanor. Pendleton left the polling place after that and said he plans to appeal the charge.
Pat Gannon, a spokesman for the N. C. State Board of Elections, told the AP that Pendleton would not be allowed to serve as a poll observer for the rest of the election cycle.