Editorial: Federal Agents at Polling Places – Trump’s Latest Authoritarian Aspiration

In Donald Trump’s latest attempt at achieving his authoritarian aspirations, he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he was planning to send federal law enforcement to polling locations in November in order to prevent voter fraud. As he demonstrated in June when he used U.S. military force to break up peaceful protesters, Trump thinks intimidation and demonstrations of force are good ways to impress voters. Unfortunately for Trump, however, voter intimidation is against federal law, and voting rights advocates and others see this latest proposed exercise as an attempt to intimidate voters.

Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said that DHS has no authority to send federal agents to oversee polling locations.

“That’s not what we do at the Department of Homeland Security,” said Wolf. “We have law enforcement authorities and law enforcement officers at the department. We have express authorities given to us by Congress and this is not one of them.”

Further, some states prohibit law enforcement, whether local or federal, from being present at polling locations on Election Day unless they are there to vote or serve a warrant.

Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, told ABC News the president can’t give orders to local sheriffs, and he can’t send federal forces into polling places.

“There’s no law that I’m aware of that permits, or that would authorize, the president to deploy federal law enforcement or military or anything like that for domestic use in and around in or around polling places,”

“Just checking someone’s ID at the door doesn’t really do anything from an election security perspective — from a voter intimidation perspective, I can see how having law enforcement ask people for IDs when you’re entering into a polling location could be intimidating.”

Intimidation is a component of Donald Trump’s leader fantasy. One has to wonder if Trump dreams of standing on a balcony wearing a generic military uniform as a tank parade in his honor passes by below, the crowds saluting and cheering for him in their mass hysteria, though they can’t say exactly why.

“Are you going to have poll watchers?” Hannity asked Trump in response to his proclamation. “Are you going to have an ability to monitor, to avoid fraud and crosscheck whether or not these are registered voters?”

“We’re going to have everything,” Trump responded. “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody, and attorney generals. But it’s very hard.”

Hard indeed, when it’s all illegal. Although, when has Donald Trump not ignored the law or the Constitution when it disagreed with his worldview?

Even if Donald Trump doesn’t get to deploy special agents to polling places, he knows that if he threatens to do so, and talks about it enough, that’s almost as effective for intimidating voters. Discouraging people from voting is what this is all about.

“The outrage isn’t that he can’t accomplish it, the outrage is that the president is actually trying to scare voters into thinking that there’s going to be an illegal presence of law enforcement at the polls, illegally checking IDs,” said Wendy Weiser, who is Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “(Trump) has no authority over a state election administration official, and that many jurisdictions don’t even allow law enforcement in polling places.”

“The president needs to stop spreading misinformation,” said Nellie Gorbea, Rhode Island secretary of state.”These are just tactics to suppress the vote.”

Donald Trump’s attempts to suppress the 2020 presidential vote became clear with his efforts to discourage people from voting by mail. During the coronavirus pandemic, an increasing number of states are making it easier for voters to cast mail-in ballots in order to stay safe. Trump, however, has promoted the false idea that mail-in voting leads to vast voter fraud (studies have shown that it doesn’t). Both Democrat- and Republican-led states have successfully held elections with widespread mail-in voting—some with nearly universal mail-in voting— for years. As if to ensure that mail-in voting would go awry this election year, Trump has appointed top campaign donor and Trump loyalist Louis DeJoy as the Postmaster General, just in time to make operational changes that are slowing down mail before the election. DeJoy has recently denied plans or efforts to obstruct mail-in ballots, though Democrats are not convinced. Trump has also suggested that the election should be postponed (it can’t without an act of Congress and a very good reason.

Though 83 percent of voters will have the chance to vote by mail this year, many of them are now fearful that their votes won’t be safe, if mailed. Hence, Trump’s additional efforts to deter in-person voting, as well.

Trump’s desire to discourage voter participation with such stunts as placing federal agents at polling places shows how fearful he is of losing re-election. What will be his next stunt, if allowed? Detaining the drivers of cars with Biden/Harris bumper stickers? Illegal searches of homes with Biden/Harris yard signs? There are still 70 days till the 2020 election; we can’t assume Trump’s voter suppression efforts are even close to being over.

Trump to send law enforcement to polls | Sky News Australia [2020-08-21]

Trump Wants to Have Sheriffs, Police, Attorneys General at Polls for Election | Veuer [2020-08-21]

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