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3,600+ National Guard troops activated in 16 states for Election Day

A photo of military boots during the deployment ceremony for the Alabama Army National Guard 128th Military Police Company leaving for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Bob Gathany/HVT/TNS)
November 03, 2020

The National Guard is preparing to activate more than 3,600 troops across the country in support of the presidential election.

The Guard plans to support the Nov. 3 election in a number of ways, including assisting with cyber defense, working the polls, and standing-by to respond to any civil unrest, Military Times reported.

On Monday, 1,000 troops were reportedly activated in Massachusetts, 300 in Alabama, 300 in Arizona, as well as an undisclosed number in Illinois, Oregon, and Florida.

Troops in Arizona are on stand-by on Election Day, ready to deploy per the governor’s orders. The National Guard in Massachusetts and Oregon will also be on standby in the event of dangerous demonstrations.

Officials close to the Illinois National Guard activation would not discuss in what capacity the troops were activated.

According to Military Times, 3,671 National Guard troops have been dedicated to the Election Day efforts. Numerous states haven’t determined the number of troops they will activate, while others have alerted specific units of potential civil unrest. Wyoming has activated the smallest amount with just a single soldier.

All of the National Guard troops being deployed for Election Day are under the purview of governors and were activated on state orders. Several senior Guard officials from Nebraska, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin believe it is unlikely that the National Guard is federalized for Election Day.

“There would be no added benefit of federalizing Guard forces [for the election],” Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, Tennessee’s adjutant general, explained. “I cannot think of any scenario where we would recommend or ask for being federalized.”

Responding to civil unrest is familiar territory for the Guard, but some of their other missions for Election Day have created new challenges. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, troops are needed at polling stations to directly support the election. Concerns about cyberattacks from foreign actors attempting to disrupt the electoral process have also pushed the Guard into unfamiliar territory.

“Being a poll worker is something that’s new to the Wisconsin National Guard,” said Army Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, assistant adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard. “However, serving our state during times of need is one of our core missions, and that isn’t new. Our service members continue to answer the call, and they continue to be willing to serve their state and nation in times of need.”