Trump election observers: RNC warns its members not to engage in poll watching or any other so-called ‘ballot security’ measures

VotersBack in August, Donald Trump said he was recruiting an army of election observers to guard against a “rigged” election. Trump campaign launches drive to recruit ‘election observers’.

This week, Trump added yet another GOP ratfucker to his team to run his election observer operation. Controversial Republican Mike Roman to run Donald Trump’s ‘election protection’:

Donald Trump’s “election protection” effort will be run by Mike Roman, a Republican operative best known for promoting a video of apparent voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers outside a polling place in 2008.

Roman is to oversee poll-watching efforts as Trump undertakes an unprecedented effort by a major party nominee by calling into question the legitimacy of the popular vote weeks before election day.

Multiple sources have confirmed to the Guardian that Roman, who also previously ran the Koch network’s now defunct internal intelligence agency, will oversee the Trump campaign’s efforts to monitor polling places for any signs of voter fraud.

Roman is best known for his role in promoting a video that showed two members of the New Black Panthers – a fringe group that claims descent from the 1960s radicals – standing outside a Philadelphia polling place dressed in uniforms, with one carrying a nightstick. Police are called and the two men leave.

A justice department investigation into the incident – filed in the weeks before George W Bush left office – became a political football that divided career lawyers within the justice department. The incident was repeatedly cited as evidence of Democrats setting out to harm the election process.

The case was eventually dropped [for lack of evidence] but not before it became a conservative cause célèbre. As Rick Hasen, a election law professor at the University of California, Irvine, said: “It was one of the most retold stories on Fox News and the right for years and took on almost mythical status as evidence of thuggery by Democrats to harm the voting process.”

Hasen, who viewed the case as a “complete tempest in teapot,” said of Roman that he was “somebody who has been more willing to put forth more outrageous statements about voter fraud and election process.” Hasen added: “I don’t consider him a very responsible voice among Republicans on this question and I’m not surprised that Trump would be using him for polling related efforts.”

Trump’s unhinged comments have alarmed the Republican National Committee (RNC), for an obvious reason. RNC Warns Against Poll Watching, Citing Decades-Old Court Decree:

Fearful that a decades-old court order blocking the Republican Party from engaging in certain Election Day activities could be extended for many more years, the RNC is warning its members not to engage in poll watching or any other so-called “ballot security” measures.

The RNC’s concerns are heightened because of the vigilante poll watching GOP nominee Donald Trump has been calling for from the stump.

A lawyer for the Republican National Committee sent a letter on the issue Wednesday to RNC members, the Wall Street Journal reported. The letter cites a 1982-consent-decree the RNC agreed to after Democrats sued it for activities at polling places that they said were aimed at suppressing the minority vote.

The letter, sent to members from RNC general counsel John Ryder, said that he wanted “remind you of the restrictions placed on the RNC by the consent decree,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Per the Journal:

Mr. Ryder said the settlement prevented the members acting in their capacity as national party officials from poll watching, recruiting or training poll watchers, making contact with voters at the polls, and a wide variety of other Election Day activities.

“You are encouraged not to engage in ‘ballot security’ activities even in your personal, state party or campaign capacity. If you elect to do so, please be aware that the RNC in no way sanctions your activity,” Ryder said in the letter, according to the report.

Democrats brought the lawsuit after the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election, when they said Republicans deployed off-duty cops to patrol around polling places in minority neighborhoods and engaged in a mailing campaign targeting black and Hispanic voters. According to the lawsuit, minority voters who did not return the mailer sent by the GOP were then put on a list the Republican poll watchers used to challenge their presence on the voter rolls.

The RNC agreed to “refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities … directed toward districts that have a substantial proportion of racial or ethnic minority populations,” according to the decree, though it is interpreted to allow Republicans to participate in more general poll watching activities.

The letter comes as Trump has amped up his rhetoric about a “rigged election” and urged his supporters to go monitor the polls themselves. At a rally in rural Pennsylvania, for instance, he told attendees that they “gotta watch the polling booths” because of the “stories” has heard about “certain areas.”

Republicans have sought, unsuccessfully, to get the consent decree lifted. It is set to expire next year, the Wall Street Journal said, but if a violation is found, the RNC risks having it extended through 2025.

“I ask your full cooperation in making sure that it is not extended,” Ryder’s letter said, according to the Journal.

The consent decree does not apply to outside groups aligned with the Republican Party, like the Houston based True the Vote, a “ballot security” voter intimidation organization, which sent out this racist tweet today:

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Keep your eyes and ears open for any signs of this in Arizona. Several voter protection organizations and the Arizona Democratic Party will have poll observers and a hot line number to which you can report any incidents.

While the U.S. Justice Department will dispatch fewer election observers this year as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, complaints still can be lodged with the DOJ.

One response to “Trump election observers: RNC warns its members not to engage in poll watching or any other so-called ‘ballot security’ measures

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    After having his daddy and tax accountants and lawyers bail Trump out so many, many times over the years, you’d think this whiny little boy would be used to losing.