Election time often brings out the worst in people and the last thing you need, especially in this unstable climate, is a lunatic at a polling place who is armed and not terribly sane. During yesterday's Ohio Primary Elections, an argument escalated to the point where a male poll-worker at a Cleveland elementary school actually threatened the female precinct judge and revealed a firearm in his backpack.
45-year-old Alan Bethea became involved in what police say was at first a verbal argument with other poll workers at Louisa May Alcott Elementary around noon. At one point, Bethea went to his backpack and pulled a .380 handgun out. He did not point the gun at his fellow poll workers, but threatened them with the weapon.
The precinct judge, Tonya Gallardo, who has been a dedicated volunteer at polling sites since she was able to vote at 18-years old, was tasked with breaking up a verbal spat over assisting a handicapped voter. What boiled down to laziness on the part of Bethea resulted in a heated argument between the disturbed man and another poll worker.
The disabled voter was looking to cast a ballot in the presidential primary election. Bethea told the voter to go to a green table — but there was no green table to be found. At that point, a female poll worker told Bethea to get up and help the voter. Instead of helping, however, Bethea began to yell at the female poll worker.
That’s when Gallardo jumped in. “Me being the precinct judge, I got up and said, there’s like 50 people in here voting, I can’t have this,” she said. “I said excuse me, you have to calm down.”
“He goes, ‘You need to shut the fuck up, bitch,'” Gallardo recalled. “He says, ‘Bitch, who the hell are you think you are?'”
Gallardo said she went back across the room, called the Board of Elections, and asked to have Bethea removed. In response, Bethea opened his backpack, and showed his gun to the female poll worker sitting next to him. He showed her the gun in the bag, and pointed his finger at Gallardo.
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“I could hear him from all the way over here. He said, ‘She’s gonna die tonight. She’s gonna die,'” Gallardo said. “He went and opened his bag, and showed the girl next to him — ‘Look what I’ve got for her.'”
Gallardo called the cops. Before they got there, Bethea left — but the police eventually tracked him down and arrested him. In a statement, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections confirmed they had terminated Bethea.
The worst part of this story is that Gallardo has been threatened at a polling place before. She had previously been threatened with a knife. She's not so sure she wants to take a chance at a third encounter with another unstable worker with no background check. It seems a church or a school would be the last person where an unstable, violent person should be volunteering, and yet, there are no plans to instate this precautionary measure. So this is not the last time we'll be hearing a story like this. Gallardo said,
“Why in the world would they let him come in to a school with children and work the election?” she said. “They really can not just hire anyone because they need people to work.”
Sadly, it seems they can. We should hope that unhinged, open-carry lunatics won't be at polling places this November practicing a new form of voter intimidation. Cleveland is, coincidentally, the site of the 2016 RNC Convention. Is this an omen of things to come?