Editorial: Voter Intimidation and Suppression are Illegal, and Our President Openly Encourages Both

Voter intimidation and suppression are illegal, as is election tampering. Yet our current president continues to openly support and encourage all three, evidently in fear that those are the only ways to ensure that he wins re-election. In few areas are Trump’s authoritarian ambitions more apparent than in his efforts at voter suppression and intimidation, as well as election tampering; and even if some guns, harassment, or violence happen to be in the mix, so be it.

Donald Trump has insisted that the only way he will lose the 2020 presidential election is if the Democrats cheat. Having already nursed his supporters’ distrust of anyone but himself and those associated with him, Trump has also persuaded his base to believe his narrative about election results. Trump’s desperate crafting of such an outcome expectation has set the stage for his supporters to refuse to accept any election outcome other than Trump’s re-election. This, in itself, is election tampering by Donald Trump. Cheating, even.

When it became clear that the coronavirus pandemic would stretch beyond the summer and into the time of the presidential election, it also became apparent that polling venues would be risky places to be on Election Day. Consequently, many states decided to make it easier for their residents to vote by mail in order to protect them from contracting the virus while voting, as well as make voting generally more accessible for every voter.

Donald Trump has used the situation as another opportunity to meddle with the election by insisting that voting by mail leads to widespread voter fraud. Though it’s true that more Democrats than Republicans vote by mail, both Republican-led and Democrat-led states have successfully carried out past elections that were largely by mail-in ballot, with negligible voter fraud. Trump, however, continues to try to promote mistrust in voting by mail, and his administration has initiated several lawsuits to try to stop voting by mail. If more voters vote (and more mail-in voting ensures that more voters will vote), it is a threat to a Trump victory.

Over the summer, as if to reinforce his scheme to prevent successful mail-in voting, Trump appointed top campaign donor Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General of the U.S. Postal Service. DeJoy soon issued “cost-savings measures” that included reductions in service; decommissioning of hundreds of mail sorting machines; removal of numerous blue mailboxes across the country; and abolishing the overtime needed to ensure that all of the day’s mail is processed and delivered in a timely manner. DeJoy’s actions brought into question whether he would, intentionally or unintentionally, prevent mail-in ballots from arriving in time to be counted in the election.

Following challenges by Congress and by consumers, DeJoy pulled back on his plan to continue decommissioning postal machines and removing mailboxes. By that time, however, many machines had already been taken out of service, and many mailboxes had already been removed. Further, many Americans’ faith in the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail-in ballots on time had been eroded.

For those who will not be casting their votes by mail, the polling places have begun to open for early voting. As evidenced by the hours-long lines of voters waiting to cast their votes, Donald Trump’s efforts have not squelched voter enthusiasm, nor have they prevented votes from being cast in any fashion.

As Donald Trump has seen that nothing will deter voters from voting in the 2020 election, he has now called for an army of his supporters to deem themselves “poll watchers,” and go to voting places to “watch very carefully” as voters exercise their right to vote.

“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen,” Said Trump at his first presidential debate against former Vice President Joe Biden. “I am urging them to do it.”

Sean Morales-Doyle, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s voting rights and elections program, has said that many states have laws that dictate who is allowed to be in a polling place at a given time, including who is permitted to be a poll watcher, and what a poll watcher is allowed to do.

“There are laws like this in many states,” says Morales-Doyle. “Regular citizens can’t just take it upon themselves to engage in this kind of poll watching, and for good reason, because it opens up the possibility of voter intimidation, of vigilantism, which the president is seemingly encouraging. But it is illegal.”

Many Democratic leaders and election officials, including Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, also fear voter intimidation, and particularly, suppression of Black voters and other voters of color. Ford tweeted that Trump wasn’t referring to standard poll watching, but instead was calling for “voter intimidation.”

“Voter intimidation is illegal in Nevada. Believe me when I say it: You do it, and you will be prosecuted,” said Ford.

“The President is openly urging his supporters to congregate at polling places, go inside, and ostensibly harass and intimidate voters,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. “While there are authorized ‘poll watchers’ who monitor polls on Election Day, their duties are clearly laid out, and they do not include what President Trump has suggested.”

During early voting at one location in Fairfax, Virginia, a group of about 50 Trump supporters gathered, waving Trump 2020 banners, wrapping themselves in American flags, and shouting, “Four more years! Four more years!” Though the group hadn’t violated any election laws, some voters felt threatened, and requested escorts into the building.

In Michigan, fearing that unauthorized “poll watching” by Trump’s supporters could turn violent, the state has banned open carry of guns at polling places on Election Day, as well as at places where absentee ballots are counted.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said that the Michigan directive prohibits the open carry of firearms “in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located.”

Donald Trump would like to abolish “liberty and justice for all” by using his supporters, the very people who claim to wield their guns in support of “liberty and justice” (at least for some), to help him accomplish his goal. He has shown that he would do anything to prevent an election result that is not in his favor, including stopping the mail, and even postponing the election (which can’t be done without an act of Congress).

Trump may fantasize about winning re-election, no matter what, and he may fantasize even more about being an authoritarian leader, but Americans in large numbers have shown how dogged they are when it comes to the standing up against the attempts by the president and his enablers to prevent them from casting their votes in this election.

After all votes are counted, may the total be against the one who wanted to suppress and intimidate voters, and may it be in favor of the candidate who will work for “liberty and justice,” not just for some, but for all.

Trump’s “poll watcher” comments raise concerns about voter intimidation |
CBS News [2020-10-06]

Trump Supporters Disrupt Early Voting in Virginia | Now This News
[2020-09-22]

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