“I urge my supporters to take the polls and watch very carefully because that is exactly what has to happen. I urge them to do this,” Trump said when asked if he would tell his supporters they should keep calm and don’t get involved in rioting around the choice.
State officials hit back the president for what he said and contacted local law enforcement and other people with the authority to maintain order at the polling stations to ensure they are prepared.
“Trump also told ‘his supporters’ to ‘go into the polls and look very closely.’ But he didn’t talk about polling. He talked about intimidating voters,” Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford tweeted. Aaron Ford, “For your information ̵
There are certain laws and safeguards that govern how individuals and campaigns can be official election observers in most states. The rules vary by state, and many include official registration and how many people from each party can watch in a given location. Experts warn, however, that Trump’s statements will fuel problems with “unofficial” election observers – people who show up outside of the polling stations outside of these rules and intimidate voters.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, another Democrat, told CNN Thursday that Minnesota’s laws limited election observers to one per election campaign, but feared that more people would still come to try to observe on election day.
“I’m more concerned about what happens outside the polling station to a candidate’s disappointed supporters who show up believing they are being given access and find out they are not,” said Simon.
Election officials across the country have begun preparing for the worst by liaising with local law enforcement and other individuals empowered to maintain order, said David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research.
“I am very concerned that armies of election observers may disrupt elections, be insufficiently trained or seen as intimidating,” Becker told CNN. “Election officials need to think about these things more than ever.”
In polling stations, some states limit the number of observers per campaign, in other states anyone can watch. In Wisconsin, for example, anyone can be an election observer as long as they log in, stay in a “designated observer area” and not cause disruption, said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
“The guiding principle is that election observer activity at the polling station cannot cause disruption,” said Magney. “The observers cannot be for everyone or interfere. If an observer has information about the qualifications of the voter, like the person a convicted criminal, he can say, ‘I want to challenge this voter.’ But they must have personal knowledge. “
The Trump campaign defended the president’s remarks in a statement to CNN.
“Election monitors are critical to the fairness of elections, and President Trump’s volunteer election monitors are trained to ensure that all rules are applied equally, all valid ballots are counted, and all democratic rule violations are declared,” said campaign spokeswoman Thea McDonald said.
“If fouls are imposed, the Trump campaign will go to court to enforce the laws rightly written by state lawmakers to protect the right to vote for every voter,” added McDonald. “President Trump and his team will stand ready to ensure that the polls are conducted correctly, safely, and transparently as we work to deliver the free and fair elections Americans deserve.”
Confusion at polling stations
“She wanted to go into the facility and monitor the vote and tried to videotape the volunteers when they told her they had to keep the same distance as the other election observers outside,” said Julian Lutz, who was voting with his mother and witness Event, said CNN.
A Pennsylvania state attorney general told CNN that the bureau was actively working to identify and stop voter intimidation and interference, and discussions were ongoing at the local and state levels about voter intimidation.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told the Philadelphia Inquirer the city was preparing for election day in response to Trump’s call to his supporters to vote.
“Based on his comments, we will create an interagency plan for the day,” said Kenney.
Last month, a group of Trump supporters showed up outside a polling station in a Democratic suburb of Virginia, waving the Trump campaign flags and shouting, “Four more years.” Some voters and electoral officials said they were intimidated by the episode. Voters had queued outside due to the pandemic, but the disruption forced additional space to be created in the Fairfax County’s government center and uncomfortable voters inside to wait. At least one voter also asked to be shown past the group.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement that Trump’s comments “openly urged his supporters to gather at polling stations, go inside and allegedly harass and intimidate voters”.
“While there are authorized ‘election watchers’ to oversee the election on election day, their duties are clearly defined and they do not include what President Trump has proposed. Harassment and intimidation of voters will not be tolerated in Virginia,” said Herring, a Democrat .
Election officials and experts brace themselves for more direct confrontations and even potential violence. Since the debate, white nationalist groups and far-right activists have welcomed Trump’s call to action and his response that the far-right group, the Proud Boys, “should step back and stand by”.
“Join the Army for Trump’s Electoral Security Operation”
The Trump campaign is also working to get its supporters to follow the polls on election day. Behind the scenes, the campaign and the Republican National Committee have been recruiting election workers for months. RNC officials have said that electoral observer recruitment is a “big” part of their election day operations as they plan to deploy tens of thousands of election observers across the country in what Republican officials say could be their largest election observation operation.
In the swing state of Pennsylvania, the focus is on recruiting election observers. Facebook ads, paid for by local Republican chapters, direct Trump supporters to a Trump campaign website called “Army for Trump”.
The rhetoric surrounding poll watching often uses inflammatory and militant language.
“We need every able-bodied man and woman to join the army for Trump’s electoral security operation on defensyourballot.com,” the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., said in a video.
Another ad paid for by the City of Philadelphia Republican Committee encourages supporters to “stand up” against Democrats. “You saw the news. You saw the Democrats try to tip the scales. Now it’s time to fight back,” the ad said.
Democrats and constituencies say the possibility of violence is real.
“The risk of violence is even greater at this point, as we have seen violence escalate across the country in the past six months,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser to the non-partisan Democracy Fund, which focuses on electoral integrity. “Election officials are aware of this. They have protocols to secure the polling station and to train election workers at this moment.”
Patrick said states have codes of conduct for polling stations, but those rules have a physical limit on how far they go beyond the polls themselves.
“Part of the problem is that people who are outside a polling station for their candidate are perfectly legal in any state as long as they are outside the legal limits,” said Patrick. “In some cases this can be misunderstood as intimidation or, depending on what these people say or do, intimidation. So there will be a perception problem on both sides of the aisle of what is acceptable and what is not.”