By Marty Johnson
Save the Vote, a campaign created by a coalition of activists and political nonprofits focused on combating voting disinformation and voter suppression, has written letters to every states’ attorney general asking them to have zero tolerance for voter intimidation as early voting starts around the country.
“Voter intimidation is illegal, abhorrent, and threatens the American promise of one person, one vote,” Tiffany Muller, president of Let America Vote — a spearheading member of the coalition — said in a statement. “State Attorneys General should publicly commit to defending voters’ right to cast their ballots safely and securely–and hold accountable anyone who tries to get in the way.”
The coronavirus pandemic has created an influx of voting by mail, something that President Trump has tried to delegitimize despite having voted by mail multiple times while in the White House.
The president has claimed that the mail-in voting will lead to rampant voter fraud — an exceedingly rare occurrence. He has also warned that in-person polls will be rigged, causing him to lose his reelection bid. Trump has trailed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for months, with some recent polls showing Biden with a double-digit advantage over the president nationally.
Democrats and voting rights activists have also raised the alarm over Trump suggesting that his supporters should go to the polls to act as deterrents to supposed election rigging.
Legal observers of election places are a well-established part of the U.S. elections, supporters of a particular candidate taking matters into their own hands, however, is not.
Trump’s call to action led to a clash on the second day of early voting in Fairfax, Va., with supporters of the president at one point forcing voters to go around them to enter the polling place to cast their ballots.
“Voter intimidation is an illegal—and abhorrent—practice and it’s critical … to take these threats seriously and hold violators accountable for their actions,” Save the Vote wrote.
The president’s failure to condemn white supremacists during last week’s presidential debate in Cleveland “only underscores the importance of taking this issue seriously,” the coalition added.
In the debate, Trump told the Proud Boys — a known white supremacist group — to “stand back and stand by.”
He also urged his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen.”
The group celebrated the rhetoric on social media, forcing the White House and Trump to scramble to clarify.
The Department of Justice has a somewhat wide definition of voter intimidation, describing it as the act to “deter or influence voting activity through threats to deprive voters of something they already have, such as jobs, government benefits, or, in extreme cases, their personal safety,” but states that such behavior “warrants prompt and effective redress by the criminal justice system.”