Voter intimidation is a crime. 18 U.S. Code § 594 – Intimidation of voters.
And yet President Donald Trump and his soon-to-be former Confederate Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III are openly engaging in the crime of voter intimidation, for the first time ever in American history. Without evidence, Trump and Sessions warn of voter fraud in Tuesday’s elections:
President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday issued strong warnings about the threat of voter fraud in Tuesday’s elections, echoing the president’s baseless claims that massive voter fraud marred his 2016 election and prompting accusations that his administration is trying to intimidate voters.
In a tweet early Monday, Trump said that law enforcement has been “strongly notified” to watch for “ILLEGAL VOTING.” He promised that anyone caught voting improperly would be subjected to “Maximum Criminal Penalties.”
Sessions, in a statement laying out the Justice Department’s plans to monitor ballot access on Election Day, said “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.”
In remarks to reporters on his way to a campaign rally in Cleveland, Trump also falsely claimed that voter fraud is commonplace.
“Just take a look,” he said. “All you have to do is go around, take a look at what’s happened over the years, and you’ll see. There are a lot of people — a lot of people — my opinion, and based on proof — that try and get in illegally and actually vote illegally. So we just want to let them know that there will be prosecutions at the highest level.”
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States. Trump formed a commission to study the issue shortly after he took office that was disbanded without finding evidence of fraud after states refused to turn over voter data.
Voting rights advocates denounced Trump’s remarks as a blatant attempt to intimidate voters on the eve of Election Day — and part of a pattern among Republicans, they said, to curtail voting access with strict rules that disproportionately affect voters of color who tend to vote Democratic.
“I find this kind of conduct incredibly anti-patriotic,” said Kristen Clarke, who leads the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a voting rights group that has successfully challenged several new voting restrictions across the country this year. “At a time when we need our White House and Justice Department speaking out against the relentless campaign of voter suppression in this election cycle, it defies reason.”
False accusations of voter fraud and actual cases of voter suppression and intimidation have roared to the forefront in several closely contested races this year, raising the possibility of recounts and disputed results among dozens of races for House, Senate and governor.
The NewYork Times‘s Paul Krugman warned us what to expect last month.
Krugman added the president will likely ramp up his claims of voter fraud and claim the midterm elections were stolen “to justify their disregard of the law and Constitution.”
Krugman expounds on this in his op-ed today. Last Exit Off the Road to Autocracy.
Anticipating possible problems at the polls, political parties, interest groups and voting rights organizations have organized “war rooms” to watch Tuesday’s elections unfold and recruited thousands of volunteer lawyers to monitor precincts across the country. In his statement, Sessions said the Justice Department will follow its usual protocol of sending monitors across the country to protect against voter suppression, intimidation and discrimination; this year, staff will travel to 35 jurisdictions in 19 states to monitor compliance with voting laws.
In past years, Justice Department officials have not listed voter fraud as a top concern when announcing the deployment of election monitors, as Sessions did Monday.
“It’s indicative of a pattern with this administration,” said David Vance, a spokesman for Common Cause, a civil rights group that helped recruit 6,500 volunteers to monitor polling locations across the country Tuesday. “It’s an effort to intimidate voters and keep them away from the polls and try to dictate which voters will turn out and which voters won’t. It flies in the face of what the DOJ has done traditionally to protect voters.”
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Nowhere has the debate over voting rights been more acrimonious than in Georgia, where [this sneering evil GOP bastard] Brian Kemp, a champion of voting restrictions [voter suppression], is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would be the first-ever black female governor in the nation.
Kemp, who as secretary of state is also in charge of running Tuesday’s elections, over the weekend accused the state Democratic Party of trying to hack into the state election system. Emails from the party, however, show that party officials were alerted to a possible vulnerability in the state system and forwarded the tip to cybersecurity officials, who in turn forwarded it to lawyers for Kemp as well as the FBI.
On Monday, computer experts and lawyers involved with the episode said they were stunned that Kemp had turned an effort to alert his office about a security vulnerability into a political attack. “It’s obvious to me that they’re shooting the messenger,” said Logan Lamb, an Atlanta-based cybersecurity researcher who reviewed the emails over the weekend. See, Election Law Experts Decry Brian Kemp’s Hacking Allegation in Georgia.
As the Times‘s David Leonhardt writes, “In Georgia, the Republican nominee takes a page out of Hungarian autocracy.” ‘An Appalling Abuse of Power’.
Kemp has battled Abrams over voting issues for years. In 2014, he accused the New Georgia Project, a voter-registration group that Abrams founded to register eligible people of color, of fraud, but his investigation produced no evidence of wrongdoing. This year, he accused Abrams of encouraging undocumented immigrants to vote, a charge she denies. This week he circulated the accusation in an automated telephone recording.
Kemp also championed strict new voting rules that were partially blocked in a pair of court rulings in recent weeks. One of the laws, requiring personal information on voter registration applications to exactly match other government records, disproportionately affected people of color.
Kemp also tweeted an article Monday from Breitbart, a conservative news outlet that regularly publishes right-wing conspiracy theories, claiming that “armed Black Panthers” support Abrams. The racially charged article featured photographs of black men carrying guns and holding Abrams signs.
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In North Dakota, advocates continued to monitor a restrictive voter ID law requiring voters to provide identification displaying a residential address, which they say will make it harder for Native Americans to cast ballots because they are less likely to have the necessary documents.
Meanwhile, voting rights were on the ballot in some places. In North Carolina, voters will decide Tuesday whether to require a photo ID to vote. In Kansas, [GOP voter suppression specialist and] secretary of state, Kris Kobach, is in a tough gubernatorial race in which his false claims of rampant voter fraud have become a dominant issue. Several House Democrats have promised that new voter protections, including restoring provisions of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court, will be among their top priorities.
One bright spot for voting rights advocates has been the boost in turnout among early voters logged across the nation. As of Saturday, the number of people voting early had outpaced that of the 2014 midterm elections in 28 states, according to data compiled by Michael McDonald, a political-science professor at the University of Florida. In two additional states, Texas and Nevada, early voting was on track to surpass the entire vote count four years ago, he said.
Said Vance, of Common Cause: “To turn out and make yourself heard is the primary weapon to combat these attempts to suppress the vote.”
Vote like your life depends on it, because it literally does.