Mr. Trump’s attempts to undermine the election and scare off voters need to be called out by officials of both parties. State and local officials must ensure that safeguards are in place to protect the rights of Americans to cast their ballots.
In the closing minutes of last week’s presidential debate, Mr. Trump called on his supporters to descend on voting places and lied about poll watchers being denied access to early voting sites in Philadelphia. It was not a new refrain. In 2016, Mr. Trump attempted to recruit “election observers” after alleging without evidence that Hillary Clinton was attempting to rig the vote, and he made a similar plea during the 2018 midterm elections.
In both cases, nothing materialized, but there may be more reason to worry this year. This will be the first presidential election since 1980 in which the Republican National Committee is not bound by a federal court consent decree restricting its poll-watching activities. The constraint was the result of a suit by Democrats that detailed how the GOP dispatched off-duty law enforcement officers as “ballot security” to New Jersey polling places that served predominantly Black and Hispanic voters.
Republican officials have said their efforts this year will consist only of legal tactics. But Mr. Trump has talked about dispatching law enforcement officers — sheriffs, U.S. attorneys and attorneys general, he told Fox News’s Sean Hannity in August — to polling places on Nov. 3, a move that some election experts say would run afoul of federal and state laws. The party is attempting to recruit up to 50,000 poll watchers, with the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. issuing a call for “every able-bodied man and woman to join Army for Trump’s election security operation.” Such language — at a time when there have already been clashes between Mr. Trump’s supporters and critics — has fueled concerns of violence or intimidation on Election Day.
Officials and voting rights advocates also are stressing the need for voters not to allow Mr. Trump’s comments to deter them from voting. Election protection volunteers will be out in force; voter intimidation is against the law, and officials say they are prepared to enforce the law. “It’s worth being vigilant but not fearful,” Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told Politico. “The goals of voter suppression and voter intimidation are often accomplished by just sowing fear.”
Indeed, if there is to be any take away from the horror of the first presidential debate , it should be Mr. Biden’s full-throated exhortation to “Vote. Vote. Vote. If you’re able to vote early in your state, vote early. If you’re able to vote in person, vote in person. Vote whatever way is the best way for you.”