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

Editorial: Team Trump Is Enlisting an ‘Army’ for Election Day

Donald Trump has shamelessly tried in various ways to obstruct and cast doubt on the validity of the 2020 presidential election, and now Donald Trump, Jr., has taken up the cause, shrilly dog whistling at the right-wing militia types among Trump’s supporters. Just days before Donald Trump denied having heard of the Proud Boys, an extreme-right, army-like, weapon-wielding hate group, Trump, Jr., posted a video on social media, calling for supporters to join an “army” to prevent the “radical left” from stealing the election.

In the video, a glassy-eyed Donald Trump, Jr., says, “The radical left are laying the groundwork to steal this election from my father, President Donald Trump. They are planting stories that President Trump will have a landslide lead on election night, but will lose when they finish counting the mail-in ballots. Their plan is to add millions of fraudulent ballots that can cancel your vote, and overturn the election. We cannot let that happen. We need every able-bodied man and woman to join Army for Trump’s election security operation…we need you to help us watch them. Not just on Election Day, but also during early voting, and at the counting boards. President Trump is going to win. Don’t let them steal it… Enlist today.”  Trump, Jr., also provides a website where those interested can sign up.

Donald Trump, Sr., has refused to definitively denounce white supremacists and extreme right hate groups, even those identified as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center (which includes the Proud Boys on its list of hate groups), or the FBI. In fact, many within the Proud Boys celebrated it as a signal of support when Trump, during the first presidential debate, said, “Proud Boys— stand back and stand by,” in response to moderator Chris Wallace, of Fox News, when Wallace asked Trump if he would denounce white supremacists and military groups such as the Proud Boys, known for endorsing violence.

Trump has suggested not only sending law enforcement agents to polling places on Election Day to “watch” voters; he has also encouraged his base to show up to “closely watch” in-person voting.

“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen. I am urging them to do it,” said Trump during the debate. It is voter intimidation, and Trump doesn’t care that it’s illegal.

The U.S. has never seen a presidential candidate (let alone a sitting president) launch this type of attack on an election, nor try to “enlist” supporters to oppose and try to intimidate the other party, as if in a war. But “dictators do it all the time,” says Judith Kelley, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy and an expert in global democracy.

As careful as Trump, Sr., has been in his language to avoid denouncing right-wing militia groups, the messaging to people of that mindset has also been careful and intentional.

“It was a real threat,” said author and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, of Trump’s “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by” comment. “He knew exactly what he meant.”

“It wasn’t a shoutout,” said Mary Trump, the president’s niece and author of Too Much and Not Enough, a tell-all book about Donald Trump. “It was an order ― and we need to see it in those terms and we should be terrified by that.”

The Proud Boys interpreted it as such, posting memes and offering T-shirts emblazoned with “Standing down and standing by sir” just hours after the debate.

As for Trump Jr.’s video ad, “Enlist now,” says the marquis on the screen next to Trump, Jr.’s slightly addled-looking talking head.

Team Trump tweeted out the video with the caption, “We need you to join ARMY FOR TRUMP’S election security operation!”

“The use of terms like ‘army’ is by no means coincidental,” says Kelley. “Once you start using language that hints at the use of force, you are stoking the embers.”

Twitter slapped a small, unobtrusive notice on the tweet, by way of a link for those who were motivated to click: “Learn how voting by mail is safe and secure.” Apparently, this is Twitter’s current way of countering misinformation from Team Trump.

“These posts, by a president’s son, should rank among the most worrisome threats to American democracy in our history. Calling for an ‘army’ to prevent the election from being stolen?!? This should be disowned by the GOP—but we know it won’t be,” tweeted New York Times journalist Charlie Warzel.

Though GOP lawmakers are alarmed by Trump’s remarks and refusal to denounce hate groups and white supremacists, they have not said much about Team Trump’s tactics to try to obstruct the election.

Where are the “small government” members of Trump’s base, those who claim to cherish democracy and personal liberty? Does freedom to carry a weapon cancel out freedom to cast one’s vote? Are all bets off when it comes to “land of the free,” if it means that in order to ensure Trump’s re-election, Biden voters must be prevented from exercising their right to vote with threats, intimidation, and possibly even injury or death? If we’re waiting till Election Night, or in the days afterward, to worry about what might happen, it will be too late. The signal has been given; the call to arms has been made. Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and the rest of “Team Trump,” are attempting to steal the election right now, and an army of Trump supporters are standing back and standing by.

President Donald Trump: White supremacist group Proud Boys should ‘stand back and stand by’ | CNBC [2020-09-30]

Proud Boys Celebrate President Trump’s Callout To Them During Debate | TODAY [2020-09-30]