RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A former North Carolina Republican lawmaker who was observing an early voting site in Wake Forest on behalf of his party was charged Friday with a Class 3 misdemeanor for allegedly assaulting a poll worker.
Gary Pendleton, a 73-year-old former state House lawmaker and former Wake County commissioner, confirmed the charge. He said he had pushed an early voting official who he says blocked his pathway to enter the polling site around 7:30 a.m.
At the direction of his county party, Pendleton said he had sought to gain access to the site an hour before the polls opened at 8 a.m. to make sure no fraudulent voting activities were taking place. He said he was met by a security guard who refused him entrance.
When he asked for a supervisor to let him in, the supervisor instructed him that he'd have to wait outside. Frustrated with the experience, Pendleton tried to re-enter about 20 minutes later, where he was again refused entry by the same elections official.
“He was on one side, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll just go around you,'” Pendleton said. “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.”
Gary Sims, Wake County's elections director, and Pat Gannon, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, confirmed the incident had taken place. Sims said poll workers should never be faced with violence.
“Nobody comes to work expecting to be assaulted,” Sims said.
Law enforcement arrived after the polls opened and cited Pendleton with the Class 3 misdemeanor. He then left the early voting site.
Pendleton will not be permitted to serve as a poll observer for the rest of this election cycle, Gannon said. He plans to appeal the assault charge in court.
The North Carolina Republican Party condemned Pendleton's actions and expressed apologies on his behalf.
“Our training specifically prohibits any attempt to obstruct a voter or inhibit the election process," said a statement from the party's press secretary, Tim Wiggington. “Gary Pendleton violated our policy with his actions today, and he will no longer be volunteering. He acknowledges his mistake and apologizes for his action.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: Former lawmaker charged with assaulting poll worker