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States call in National Guard to fill poll worker shortages — and to prepare for possible election unrest

The National Guard is getting ready to deal with a very unusual election in some very unusual ways.

As COVID-19 led to a shortage of poll workers and an influx of mail-in ballots, at least 10 states brought in their National Guard troops to deal with election tasks, and another 14 are expected to do so this week, The New York Times reports. But in Massachusetts and Oregon, governors are calling in the guard to prepare for another Election Day struggle: potential unrest.

With “the electorate sharply polarized, the president warning supporters of a stolen election, and gun sales through the roof,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has placed 1,000 Guard troops on standby in case of unrest, the Times writes. And in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown (D) declared a state of emergency around Portland and will have Guard members trained in crowd control on standby to assist state and county police in case of an uproar. Only National Guard troops, not the military, can “enforce order on domestic soil,” the Times notes. Still, the president can take control of Guard members and deploy the Army or Marines if he decides protests become an “insurrection,” experts say.

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Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would deploy Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, along with Customs and Border Patrol Officers, to protect federal property during potential protests surrounding the election. ICE, CBP, and other federal law enforcement agencies were first sent out over the summer to combat protests throughout the U.S. In particular, federal agents stormed into Portland in July against the will of its mayor and Brown. Kathryn Krawczyk