Donald Trump wants so-called “poll watchers” to scare people into not voting? Fine, then Arizona Democrats will sue their state GOP’s sorry ass… And they’ve got a good chance of winning.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 was a huge win for the Republican Party. Since high voter turnout — especially high minority voter turnout — creates victories for Democrats, it makes sense for the GOP to keep as many people from voting as they possibly can. There’s just one thing the party of Donald Trump forgot: Voters still do have some rights, and the GOP doesn’t get to do whatever the hell it wants.
Donald Trump’s calls for “poll watchers” to prevent nonexistent “voter fraud” may land the Republican Party in some serious hot water. AZ Central reports the Democratic Party of Arizona filed a lawsuit and seeks a court order banning Mein Trumpf’s bands of brown shirts from the polling places.
‘The suit filed in federal court in Phoenix Monday seeks an order blocking volunteer GOP poll watchers from harassing or photographing people headed to polling locations. The suit says the state Republican Party is essentially an arm of Trump’s campaign and the campaign and its backers have been organizing “citizen journalists” and “poll watchers” to flood minority-heavy polling sites on Nov. 8.’
And despite the demise of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, they’ve still got some ammo. Last week, Rachel Maddow talked about something the GOP forgot about: That pesky old legal consent decree. Back in 1981, the Republican National Committee (RNC) employed similar “poll watcher” tactics during a tight governor race in New Jersey. Their “Ballot Security Task Force” employed heavy-handed tactics in minority districts and won the race for their candidate by a razor thin margin.
Unfortunately, the GOP’s short-term win backfired and had long-term consequences: a 35-year consent decree that puts strong limits on their “poll watching” activities. These legal restrictions don’t expire until next year. Naturally, Donald Trump’s renewed call for “poll watchers” has triggered concerns on the part of DNC lawyers at the national level. Now, they’re demanding that the courts extend the consent decree through 2025.
Watch: Rachel Maddow explains how Trump’s call for “poll watchers” is causing legal trouble for the RNC.
Of course, Tim Sifert, the state’s GOP spokesman, insists these poll watchers aren’t trying to intimidate voters. They’re just helping “monitor” polling places since — thanks to SCOTUS — we no longer have as many actual monitors for U.S. elections. But, as POLITICO points out, there’s a huge difference between having impartial observers around to provide advice and support for voters and poll workers and having “poll watchers” spreading misinformation and scaring voters.
‘Trump seems to be advocating for a type of election monitoring that relies on volunteers to use deceptive practices that are often used to prevent people of color from voting. Voter suppression has changed since the era of literacy tests and poll taxes. In 2016, suppression occurs in two distinct stages: one before the election, and one at the polling locations themselves.’
The POLITICO article explains how the GOP tries to scare people into not voting in two stages.
- Stage 1: Before an election, Republicans try to keep people from casting their ballots with false — and sometimes scary — information. In 2008, mailers went out telling Democratic voters in Virginia that Election Day had been moved from Tuesday to Wednesday. Meanwhile, black neighborhoods in Milwaukee (2004) and Philadelphia (2008) got plastered with flyers warning that people with unpaid child support and parking tickets might get arrested when they show up to vote.
- Stage 2: On election day, so-called “poll watchers” — often with fake badges and IDs that make them look like they’re in positions of authority — single out non-white voters with demands for ID and questions about their citizenship. They also often scare off eligible voters by taking photos and video footage (which sounds innocuous unless you happen to be among the roughly 7.5 million people being stalked each year).
And, let’s not forget — here’s what “poll watchers” looked like during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.
Roger Stone's 'poll watchers' pic.twitter.com/2FRCR4PywL
— Kid Phantasm (@cbbruuno) October 21, 2016
And here are some “poll watchers” in Germany back in 1933.
1933 Election Campaign: Reich President Paul von Hindenburg Leaves the Polling Station pic.twitter.com/hfqp564emi
— J.-P. "Jeremiad" Janson De Couët #GeneralStrike (@jpjanson) May 7, 2015