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Yes, it is illegal to intimidate voters in elections. What to do?



Information guide for election voters

If you see voter intimidation, report it.

James Martin / CNET

This story is part of 2020 elections, CNET̵

7;s coverage of the November vote preparations.

If you plan to vote personally on election day This year you have to know your voting rightsincluding the right not to be harassed, which candidate you voted for, or whether you can vote at all. These illegal practices are known as voter intimidation and are against federal law. If you see it, report it.

Voter intimidation has persisted for decades and has historically been directed against black and colored communities to deter them from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

The crime of voter intimidation has recently become a hot topic of discussion. On September 29, during the first presidential debate, President Donald Trump urged his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very closely,” a statement that worried civil liberties and proponents of voting rights. At the beginning of the debate, Trump refused to condemn white supremacist groups and called on the Proud Boys, an extremist group, to “stand down and stand by”.

In September also Trump urged supporters to vote twice, an act that is against the law. Double votes are also crimes that result in imprisonment and / or fines.

There is a notable difference between a legitimate election observer and someone who breaks laws that protect voters from harassment, including the right to vote in private. We’ll show you exactly what voter intimidation is and what isn’t – and what to do when you see it.

Vote stickers for the election

Don’t let anyone stop you from voting.

James Martin / CNET

What is voter intimidation?

Voter intimidation is when someone tries to influence the election of a voter or prevent them from voting by creating a hostile verbal or physical environment. For example, it is illegal to question your voting rights by asking personal questions about your criminal record or citizenship.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (PDF), spreading false information about voter requirements, such as the ability to speak English, is also seen as voter intimidation. You can receive ballot papers and ballot papers in your native language, according to the US Electoral Assistance Commission, which is protected by the minority language provisions of the Voting Act.

What are the Voter Intimidation Laws?

Along with election fraud like double vote and campaign finance crimes, voter intimidation is a federal crime. It applies to anyone who “intimidates, threatens, coerces or attempts to intimidate, threaten or coerce another person in order to prejudice that other person’s right to vote”. If the law is violated, the perpetrator can be convicted and sentenced to up to a year in prison, a fine of $ 1,000, or both.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 also prohibit voter intimidation.


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How can I report voter intimidation?

If you or someone else is harassed or threatened during the election, report this to an election worker. Then call and report it to the election protection hotline (1-866-OUR VOTE) or the US Department of Justice’s voting hotline (1-800-253-3931). You should also contact your state electoral authority. In some cases, an election worker can call local authorities to remove the individual.

Is poll watching seen as voter intimidation?

Poll watching, also called poll challenge, is legal. An election observer is a partisan person whose purpose it is to observe a polling station to ensure that their party has a fair chance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

For example, an election observer can closely monitor election administration and track the turnout of his parties. However, you shouldn’t be trying to persuade anyone to vote one way or another.

There are necessary qualifications to become an election observer, but they vary by state. Legitimate election observers are not people who simply choose to show up at a polling station. Some states may require election observers to be registered voters or US citizens.

More information on voting can be found here How to find your polling station on election day, Who has the right to vote and who doesn’t?, and How to keep track of your ballot paper online after you’ve voted.


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