Brennan Center for Justice Report: “As Election Day nears, President Trump has increasingly threatened to instigate voter intimidation. First, he has insinuated that he will deploy law enforcement officers or call up the National Guard to root out election-related crimes at the polls. (Spoiler alert: voter fraud is vanishingly rare). The president has abused his authority over law enforcement before, most notably when he deployed federal agents — and threatened to deploy the military — in response to domestic protests earlier this summer. On top of this, in the first nationally televised presidential debate the president called for his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully,” especially in Philadelphia. The Republican National Committee (RNC) claims to be gearing up for an aggressive “ballot security” operation involving 50,000 poll watchers, which many worry could include plans to intimidate voters. In 2017 a court freed the RNC from a 35-year-old consent decree that required the committee to obtain judicial approval of any such operations to ensure that they would not illegally intimidate or discriminate against voters or interfere with their right to vote. There is a shameful history in parts of the country of armed officers, on duty or off, targeting Black voters and other voters of color for intimidation. Their mere presence in polling places could raise reasonable fears among groups that are frequently the target of racial profiling and police misconduct.
But the law is crystal clear: it is illegal to deploy federal troops or armed federal law enforcement officers to any polling place. State and local laws and practices place limits on the role of law enforcement and poll watchers. And a host of federal and state laws, many of which also carry severe criminal penalties, prevent anyone — whether a law enforcement officer or a vigilante — from harassing or intimidating voters…”
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